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.