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.

The protected sea of the lands of Pisa

Free and wild beach in Marina di Vecchiano and sunbathing on the limited number beach in San Rossore. On foot or by bicycle in the pine forests, floral species and rare animals.

The natural park of Migliarino, San Rossore and Massaciuccoli is bordered by thirty kilometers of constantly moving beaches, protected by dunes and pine forests.

We are in the Terre di Pisa in front of a unique sea along the entire Tyrrhenian coast, where equipped beaches alternate with the nature reserve: Lecciona, Bufalina, Bocca di Serchio, Lame di Fuori, Dunes of Tirrenia …

The mouths of the Arno and Serchio create in this stretch of coast a peculiar geographical condition that hosts numerous rare plant and animal species such as the Fratino, an endangered bird, which only here has found the right habitat where to nest and reproduce.

Where today the dunes and pine forests of the current natural park extend, a brackish marsh originally stagnated, part of an ancient lagoon that stretched up to Pisa. It was the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinando II de ‘Medici who wanted these wild places, populated by wild boars, fallow deer and foxes, in his possessions, convinced that he would adapt well to the mild climate of San Rossore, as indeed happened. However, it took several centuries and extensive reclamation works for this vast territory to become a destination for naturalistic visits and a treasure trove of biodiversity. Today, in fact, it is possible to get lost among paths that, like thin veins, cross forests of poplars, holm oaks, pines and ash trees; admire the colors of sea soldanella and hibiscus; look at herons that calmly glide over the waters or gray cranes that doze, regardless of the nature that never sleeps around them.

The Tenuta di Migliarino, in the municipality of Vecchiano and that of San Rossore, in that of Pisa constitute the heart of this naturalistic wealth. Migliarino extends to Marina di Vecchiano, a long free beach (interrupted by three small equipped spaces that use strictly natural materials) sandy and wild which laps from the mouth of the Serchio laps Torre del Lago Puccini. Here a dune system of great interest extends, in which halophytes and halotolerants grow, which are not present in other areas of the park due to the erosion of the coast. The municipality of Vecchiano, together with the University of Pisa, wanted to emphasize the importance of this biodiversity by promoting a unique botanical garden project, that is, an artificial dune that can be visited for educational purposes.

The extension and the consequent variety of landscapes are peculiarities that attract visitors from the most diverse desires: contemplatives and lovers of the sunset on the sea can participate in summer excursions on pristine coasts while sports enthusiasts will not miss long rides in the pine forests of San Rossore or maybe they want to get to know the landlord of these lands better, the horse. In fact, there are six equestrian centers that offer excursions in the company of gentle quadrupeds, which slowly cradle to the innermost woods.

The park hosts two WWF oases: the Dunes of Tirrenia and the Bosco di Cornacchiaia which organize walks and many activities.

Photos: Marina di Vecchiano


A classroom with the sky on the ceiling, the stage of emotions

Despite the restrictions, children can also participate in the camps in the park this year.

The Equitiamo riding school, immersed in the San Rossore estate in the Sterpaia area, has already started operations and offers a green open-air classroom. Environmental education lessons are held in a large green meadow, plus walks in the mysterious natural environments of San Rossore and the stage of emotions where children tell their companions the sensations on the days lived in contact with nature and animals , first of all the ponies. Trips with your bike are also scheduled, which is properly sanitized by the organizers.

The camp is suitable for children aged 6 to 11.

Information and registration: t. +39 338

The solar field organized by the Lipu Oasis on the San Rossore estate is called Adventure in the Park, which alternates naturalistic laboratory activities with sustainable excursions in the most significant areas of the Park, from canoe trips on the lake to bicycle excursions in the immense forests of San Rossore, until the discovery of the wildest beaches, to end the week with an activity dedicated to environmental volunteering where children can reflect on the meaning of taking care of the environment in which we live.

For information and registration: t. +39 0584 975567 –

Landscapes photos

On the Gombo beach to observe the sea

The natural beach of Gombo, with its dunes and the view of the petrified forest, becomes the protagonist of a new excursion, on an experimental basis, which adds to the numerous guided tours organized in the Park of Migliarino San Rossore Massaciuccoli.

The heliotherapeutic activity of the ‘Buca del Mare’, managed by the San Rossore Recreational Club, restarts with renewed structures in wood and natural materials and with the novelty of the guided tour every day until 13 September, with 15 umbrellas available from Monday on Friday and 10 on weekends.

It starts from Cascine Vecchie with a vehicle made available by the Visitor Center and the arrival at the natural beach in the area called ‘La buca del mare’, where you can stay under an umbrella, sunbathe and enjoy the beauty of the beach, respecting the environment and the bathing ban.

Reservations: t. 050 530101

Price: 30 euros (transfer and umbrella)

Participants must comply with the antiCovid security provisions.

Excursions, guided tours, bike rental and the electric train

Carriage ride, heliotherapy on the beach, bike rides along the paths of the estate. Just rent a bicycle or a bicycle / wheelchair, or explore the park on board a horse-drawn carriage pulled by strong TPR horses. Saturday and Sunday the tour is available with the electric train through the woods and pine forests of the estate with arrival to the sea. Departure at 8.30, 9.30, 10.30, 11.30 from the parking in via Pietrasantina.

The service is free, upon reservation until seats are exhausted.

Reservations: t. 050 530101

Worship and culture. The basilica of San Piero in Grado

Tradition has it that Saint Peter landed here, coming from Palestine and heading to Rome, in 44 AD. The column with the marble top used as an altar during the mass celebrated by the founder of the Christian Church is still preserved in the apse. Noteworthy are the frescoes by the Lucca painter Deodato Orlandi depicting the first Christian popes. The splendid Romanesque complex in tuff and white marble is embellished with elegant ceramic decorations dating back to the 10th century AD, depicting boats or simple geometric motifs.

Info: 050 960065

Photo Pisa

There should be no need for many presentations but in the photo on the left the famous leaning tower of Pisa and on the right the Duomo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.

When plants learn to defend themselves: the story of acacia and antelope

We are in 1981 and kundu, a variety of antelope bred in South Africa, becomes “famous” all over the world for being one of the first animals to practice mass suicide.

In South Africa’s national parks, many specimens of this animal were found dead and on an empty stomach. Lifeless, they lay at the foot of the acacias where they usually went to feed on the leaves of this tree.

After various investigations, autopsies and tests on plants, an incredible conclusion was reached: the reason for the “suicide” of the antelopes was born primarily from the presence of man-made fences that excessively limited their range of action but also and above all from the fact that the acacias, if excessively preyed upon, made their leaves toxic and therefore indigestible for antelopes.
Not only.

The acacia, thanks to a particular “communication” system, was able to send an ethylene-based gaseous message that warned nearby plants thus making other plants poisonous and inedible to kundu which, limited by fences, had no way of escape if not that of choosing between death by intestinal blockade or starvation.

After the period of excessive predation, the acacia leaves became edible again.

But how did these conclusions come about?

The team of Professor Wouter van Hoven of the University of Pretoria, mistreated and studied a forest of acacias to understand the intensity and duration of the “defense mechanism” of this plant.
Here is what conclusions he came to:

“Acacia trees send an” alarm signal “to other trees when antelopes eat their leaves. Wouter Van Hoven says that antelope-gnawed acacias produce leaf tannin in lethal quantities and emit ethylene into the air. Ethylene warns other trees of the imminent danger, which increases their tannin production for just five or ten minutes. Van Hoven made his discovery when asked to investigate the sudden death of about 3000 South African antelopes, called kudus, on the Transvaal ranches He noticed that the giraffe, who wandered freely, only ate from one acacia tree out of ten, avoiding those trees that were downwind. The Kudu, which was fenced in the ranches, could only eat acacia leaves during the winter months. the antelope continued to eat until the tannin from the leaves triggered a lethal metabolic chain reaction in his body. “

the flowers that help bees

It’s ever more topical the health of our planet and, with it, their good and peaceful life they lead the many inhabitants of the same. Often he talked about the bees that although feared by some for their sting, remain among the most beneficial insects in the world for the support they give to the seasonal nature of both pollination and for producing honey.

These are two of the many reasons why to have flowers in the garden that favor their presence may be helpful to the ecosystem and especially for flowers in general.

Greenpeace has recently drawn up a long list of what are the plants and flowers that can help the bees, we will propose some that integrate and add to these and those, of course, in every season they serve to nature for color and scent the environment.

  • The tulip, easy to grow and come by. With all its different forms and varieties colors the world.
  • Marygold, magic flower by many properties. Having him in the garden is also useful for the ladybirds (see article)
  • Lavender, fragrance and color plant in the garden or on the balconies would be perfect
  • Sunflower, the highest and colorful flower does not even need no introduction because, you see it … forever!
  • Aromatic herbs such as sage and rosemary.

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…