Austria names two mire complexes as new Ramsar sites

14/07/2005



Austria now has 19 Ramsar sites

The Convention Secretariat is very pleased to announce that the Government of Austria has designated two very interesting mire sites for the List of Wetlands of International Importance, effective 13 and 15 December 2004. One of them, in the Tyrol in the west of the country, is part of a mire ecosystem which may become a collaboratively managed transboundary Ramsar site with German Bavaria just to the north of Innsbruck. The other is a mosaic of varied wetland types along a small valley in the south, in Carinthia or Kärnten near Klagenfurt. Ramsar's Assistant Advisor for Europe, Dorothea August, has prepared these brief descriptions of the sites based upon the Ramsar Information Sheets submitted with the site-designation instruments.

The site named "Bayerische Wildalm and Wildalmfilz" in the Tyrol (133 hectares, 47°35'N 011°48'E), already a European Natura 2000 site, is a large fen area covering the whole bottom and the slopes of a Karst depression with a natural brook that vanishes into a Ponor (Polje), and a saddle bog connected by fens and wet meadows to the southern slopes. Situated on the border between two biogeographical regions, the Northern Prealps and Flysch Zone and the Northern Limestone Alps, the site supports typical endangered mire plant communities for both regions, such as peat moss and sedge including bog sedge and bottle sedge communities. The water regime encompasses an outstanding mixture of paludification mire, terrestrialisation mire and inundation mire. As is typical for the Alps, the saddle bog Wildalmfilz has developed from a paludification mire, where groundwater influence is restricted to the lagg zone along the mire margin in the south where a big sloping fen, the Wildalmmoos, borders on the bog. As with all mires of the Tyrol, the site is protected by the conservation law and peat extraction or drainage of mires is prohibited. Following the natural extent of the mires, the nomination of a transboundary site designation with the German part of the Bayerische Wildalm is in preparation.

The "Moor- und Seenlandschaft Keutschach-Schiefling" (543 hectares, 46°35'N 014°08'E), within a Carinthian conservation area, is made up of ten areas along the 12.5 km long valley, comprising four greater lakes (Keutschacher See, Hafnersee, Rauschelesee, Bassgeigensee), some ponds, and a mosaic of various wetland types, such as tall sedge and herb communities, wet grassland, elements of raised bog, damp meadows, tree-dominated swamps, black elder swamp forests, birch tree and willow tree swamp forests. This high variety supports many animal species, such as butterflies, insects and birds which are associated with these wetland plant communities, as well as snails, amphibians and dragonflies which need the ponds and other open water areas for reproduction, and two amphibian migration routes. Until ca.1970 most of the moist meadows were cultivated regularly for horse-hay and litter, but with the abandonment of these land uses perennial herbs, reeds, bushes, followed by black elders, birches, willow-trees and pines have spread over the area. A site management plan has been elaborated as part of the Ramsar designation process, and it includes education facilities such as guiding for visitors and a biking trail.

The Bassgeigensee, part of the Keutschach-Schiefling Ramsar site, formed by glacial action in the Würm ice age some 12,000 years ago.

Klaus Krainer, the site manager, explains the layout of the Keutschach-Schiefling site to Ramsar's Dorothea August, 5 June 2005

The boardwalk through part of the Keutschach-Schiefling site.

Photos courtesy of ARGE Naturschutz (http://www.arge-naturschutz.at)

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