Wienerwald: the Viennese forest, a UNESCO biosphere reserve

Contrary to what one might think, Vienna has a green lung made up of woods, vineyards and meadows to the west of the city. It extends from the outskirts of the city to the countryside of Lower Austria. This is the Viennese Wood, one of the 727 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in the world but the only one, at least among the European ones, located on the edge of a metropolis. It covers an area of approximately 105,000 hectares, over seven of the 23 Viennese municipalities and 51 municipalities in the Lower Austria region.

It is a territory where man and nature coexist and benefit from each other. The intertwining of forests and settlement areas, as well as the contrasts between rural areas and metropolises, produce special natural conditions and at the same time represent a great challenge. The goal is to protect natural habitats and plant and animal species by creating the conditions for responsible development.
Over 60% of the surface is covered by forests, the effect of which on the climate, air and water balance is fundamental for the entire metropolitan area. The Wienervald in all seasons is a recreational area much loved by the residents, a destination for trips and excursions in all seasons: in spring, when primroses appear and the forest smells of wild garlic; in summer, when it becomes an oasis of coolness where you can take refuge from the heat of the city; in autumn, when the foliage turns the green of the leaves into yellow and red. But even in winter, with bare trees, its landscapes have an irresistible charm.

Wienervald sentiero
Image by Katharina Jankele from Pixabay

In addition to woods, meadows and vineyards characterize the landscape. There are 33 forest associations and 23 open grasslands, where very specific animals and plants live. In dry meadows, for example, pulsatille and yellow adonides can be found. Siberian iris and marsh gentian grow in wet meadows.
With a variety of 70 plant species and 560 animal species per hectare, the lean lawns not only display unexpected richness, but are also particularly beautiful thanks to their showy blooms.

Then there are small peat bogs, now rarefied, habitat of orchids, amphibians, dragonflies, cicadas and many other insects. In the eyes of hikers and nature lovers, the colorful meadows of the Viennese Wood are the original image of “unspoiled nature”, but all these meadows and pastures exist only thanks to centuries of cultivation by man. With the disappearance of agricultural use, the lawn would return to the state of wood, through various evolutionary phases. Finally there are the vineyards: the wine-growing landscapes have motivated the designation of the Wienerwald as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

On the sunny slopes of the Viennese Wood, viticulture draws the landscape, together with fruit trees, hedges and dry stone walls, the latter also surprising natural habitats.

Halligen Islands: a journey between rails, islets and the sea of an enchanted place

There is a small group of tiny islands up there facing Germany. They are the Halligen Islands and here every season means having to deal with the sea and climate change. These 10 islands are so low above sea level that at certain times of the year they are completely submerged and “reappear” after a few days.
A few dozen inhabitants live on each island but the risk that with climate change everything will be submerged forever is really high. However, these islands have a certain importance for several factors: first of all they protect the German coasts and, above all, they allow many species of birds to settle in these parts.

The regular floods that submerge these islands bring sediments that help the flora and fauna to feed. Elsewhere this would not be possible. It is for this and for other reasons that the coastal state of Schleswig-Holstein, which includes the Helingen Islands, is investing a lot of money so that here we can raise the level of the islands with respect to the sea while trying, at the same time, to also enlarge their surface.
According to the studies carried out by experts, each island would have to “grow” by about 4-5 mm every year to keep up with the sea level. So far only the island of Hooge, thanks to a closed dam that surrounds it, has managed to limit the floods, while Nordstrandischmoor only grows by 1-2 mm per year.

Vista aerea dell'Hallig Süderoog
Aerial view of Hallig Süderoog, Adobe Stock photo
The bird population

The Wadden Sea was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009 and it is no coincidence that around 60,000 birds live on Halligen, which means more than half of the species found in Germany. Sea swallows, arctic terns, and gulls are the most common species here. On the Halligen islands they find an ideal place to nest away from predators who stay away thanks to the abundant winter floods.
Preserving the life of the people of this island therefore also means saving the life of a unique environment in the world where many animal species can proliferate and survive. This is why it would be important to continue with the conservation projects of this place

The railway lines
Lüttmoorsiel-Nordstrandischmoor railway line, Photo Adobe Stock

The Halligen Islands are connected by two railway lines: the first is the Lüttmoorsiel-Nordstrandischmoor, also known as the Lorenbahn. This first line is 3.6 km long and was built between 1933 and 1934.
It is used for the transport of goods, for mail and for the transport of building materials. Every resident of Nordstrandischmoor owns a wagon and must be at least 15 years old and have a license to drive it.
The second railway line is the Halligbahn, which runs along the Dagebüll – Oland – Langeneß line.
In Oland, there is only a small municipality with about fifteen houses and a church, while Langeneß is home to 58 families.

The hallig
  1. Nordstrandischmoor covers an area of approximately 1.9 square km and has four terps, a couple of schools and a restaurant. In 2010, 18 people lived here;
  2. Langeneß is today the largest Hallig of all and has a total length of 10 km. Its 134 inhabitants of which 113 in Langeneß are divided into 18 terp: Bandixwarf, Christianswarf, Honkenswarf, Ketelswarf, Kirchhofswarf, Kirchwarf, Hilligenley, Hunnenswarf, Mayenswarf, Neuwarf, Norderhörft, Peterhaitzwarf, Peterswarf, Rixithwarland, Törfwarland. The economic income of this Hallig comes partly from agriculture and partly from the state enterprise for the protection of the coasts;
  3. Gröde with 252 hectares, it is the third largest hallig on the island. Only 8 residents live here and there are two terps, one of which is uninhabited;
  4. Hamburger hallig owes its name to two Hamburg merchants who bought the island in the 17th century. This hallig is connected to the mainland and managed by the NABU (Nature Conservation Union) and has a bird keeper. Nobody lives here and its two terps are uninhabited.
  5. In Süderoog Nele Wree and Olger Spreer run an ecological farm. They are the only inhabitants of the island. In addition to many guests, seabird species such as knot and sandpiper also come here.
  6. Hooge is the second largest hallig and is protected by a stone dam that “defends” it from the biggest floods. Here live 95 people spread over 10 terp which are: Backenswarft, Hanswarft, Ipkenswarft, Kirchwarft, Lorenzwarft, Mitteltritt, Ockelützwarft, Ockenswarft, Volkertswarft and Westerwarft. In Hooge there are 2 schools, 5 restaurants, 2 bars and even 2 hotels, as well as various city services that are located in Hanswarft, the main hangar of the Hallig.
  7. Habel is undoubtedly an undisturbed territory of wild nature. This hallig is inhabited only by a bird keeper for the Jordsand and V. association and, in summer, also by a bird watchdog. The species of birds that come here are hardly counted..
  8. Norderoog,is also known as “Vogelhallig”. In 1909 the Jordsand and V association purchased this hallig with the intention of making it a bird sanctuary. Thanks to donations and the work of young volunteers, stone embankments have been built here and the constant risk of floods has slowed down. In Norderoog live about 14 species of nesting birds, 6 of which are endangered and, with them, also lived the legendary keeper of the hallig Jens Wand who after living here for 40 years has never returned from a walk in the muddy plains of the area.
  9. Oland covers an area of about 2 square kilometers and has about twenty residents distributed in 18 houses on a single terp. The peculiarity of this hallig is that here is the only lighthouse built in straw in all of Germany.
  10. Sudfall is the other hallig dominated by the presence of sea birds. The property has been part of the Jordsand association since 1957 and a limited number of day trips are allowed here. Only in the summer two inhabitants arrive: an engineer and his wife who keep company with 15 species of seabirds: herring gulls, arctic terns, just to name a couple.

Posidonia oceanica: the lungs of the sea

The sea, like the air, needs its plants and oxygen.
Posidonia oceanica is one of the most important plants ever for the conservation of the sea and coasts. It is an endemic species of the Mediterranean that contributes to the oxygenation of the sea, to the prevention of coastal erosion and to the nourishment of various marine species.

For these reasons, Posidonia oceanica is a protected plant, recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
In the Mediterranean it is an indicator of sea purity and occupies an area of 3% of the entire marine space.
Although it is not a highly endangered species, the annual loss is perceptible and the problem of slow reproduction of new grasslands even more important.
For this reason, the preservation of Posidonia Oceanica is of fundamental importance for the health of our seas and people.

Found 1000 rare plants stolen in Chile worth over 1 million euros

April 27, 2021 – More than 1000 rare cacti seized from an Italian trafficker returned to Chile. The plants, which will be reintroduced into nature in the Atacama Desert where they were uprooted, would have brought in over a million euros on the clandestine market.

More than 1000 rare cacti, some belonging to endangered species of the Copiapoa genus, which grow endemic in the Atacama Desert, in the north of Chile. It is one of the driest deserts in the world with extreme environmental conditions and very specialized sparse vegetation. “Operation Atacama” is the name assigned to the nucleus of the CITES (Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) carabinieri in Ancona, responsible for this case of international trafficking of rare plants.

The value on the clandestine market to which they were destined, between Europe and Asia, was calculated at over one million euros. This is the seizure of plants for collectors of greatest value that has ever been recorded in our country. Thanks to a joint effort of the forest police, the Botanical Garden of the University of Milan, Italian cactaceae experts and the Association for Biodiversity and its Conservation of Bologna, the plants have found hospitality in the greenhouses of the Milanese botanical garden., have been classified and analyzed by the forensic botanist Marco Caccianiga, who was able to estimate with absolute certainty the wild origin of the confiscated plants. In some cases it was even possible to establish the exact location where they were collected in nature, thanks to sophisticated analyzes of the small soil samples that remained attached to the roots.

Finally, with the financial contribution of the IUCN (World Union for the Conservation of Nature) procured by the IUCN expert Barbara Goettsch of Cambridge (UK), the support of the Botanical Garden of Milan, and the indications of Pablo Guerrero, director of the doctorate in biological sciences, botanical area of the Faculty of Natural and Oceanographic Sciences of the University of Concepción in Chile, the cacti started from Linate. A video documents their new temporary accommodation in Santiago de Chile. Now they are in the hands of the Corporación Nacional Forestal de Chile (CONAF), an organization that deals with the protection of Chilean natural resources and the Agrícola y Ganadero Service (SAG), for quarantine. .

“We hope to hear about them soon in their desert – declared Andrea Cattabriga, president of the Association for Biodiversity and its Conservation of Bologna – testifying that the commitment of institutions, researchers, associations and individuals can lead to great conservation results. and enhancement of the natural and environmental heritage “. Cattabriga added: “And we hope that this case will remain as a deterrent. International collaboration can defeat at least one aspect of the clandestine market for plants and animals ”.

How to save the butterflies with flowers and plants

One time the relationship between man and the butterfly was harmonious and allowed this colorful insect to thrive and live peacefully on earth, but today, because of the pollution, deforestation and especially the continuing reckless overbuilding implemented by man, it has become more and more rare to see flying and resting on a butterfly flowers.


How to help them

There are many types of plants that are the delight of moths but more than anything else, we can create a mini natural habitat that will attract butterflies and entice back in our gardens and on our terraces.

To begin serving a beautiful sunny meadow and, if possible, an elevated point where butterflies can have a meeting place for courtship.

A tree, a wall, or, especially, a hedge to protect the garden from the wind and a small body of water from which the butterflies can take the minerals necessary for their nourishment.

If you do not have a garden, you can leverage your terrace inserting climbing plants such as ivy or honeysuckle (great nutrient for moths).

Other plants and flowers that you can take into consideration both the garden for the terrace are:

  • Verbena
  • Mint
  • wild primroses
  • Japanese chrysanthemums
  • Origan
  • Sage

Or other plants like ornamental cabbage and nasturtium

Perchè è fondamentale la presenza delle farfalle

Not everyone knows that the speed of the butterflies pollination is superior to that of any other insect on this earth and, even more, the plants pollinated by butterflies, especially in the Amazon Rainforest, are still used in large scale by pharmaceutical companies to save and help people around the world.
The foxgloves leaves have saved and helped millions of heart patients around the world, the Indian Rauwolfia contain active ingredients that relieve hypertension, while more than 50% of the medicines prescribed by doctors today, contains plants.
If this is not enough to convince anyone that the protection of an insect by large colorful wings able to pollinate a rate of about 1500 Corollas time, we do not know how else to explain how important flowers, insects and all the elements of nature…