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Forest typing started in Upper Austria, Lower Austria and Burgenland

offene Hand, wo Erde drauf liegt

The forests of the summer-warm eastern part of Austria, the northern foothills of the Alps, and the Waldviertel and Mühlviertel regions will change drastically under climate change, with up to 4 degrees Celsius higher annual mean temperatures expected. Therefore, in July 2022, the BML commissioned a consortium with the participation of the Austrian Research Center of Forests (BFW) with the project “FORSITE II – Development of the ecological basis for a dynamic forest typing in Upper Austria, Lower Austria and Burgenland”.

This project includes a modern site mapping under present and future climate conditions. The question of site is one of the most important in forestry, as tree species selection and silvicultural treatment depend on it. For this reason, the FORSITE II project will produce digital thematic maps showing the present and future environmental conditions for the forests of these three states. This will make it possible to show the changes in the sites in the near future and in the distant future.

Comprehensive surveys

The survey work will be carried out during the 2022 growing season with ten survey teams. In total, information on topography, substrate, soil, stand, vegetation, and site growth will be collected at more than 1000 survey plots. Soil and substrate samples will also be taken from more than 400 plots, and chemical and physical parameters will be measured. Results from additional measurement plots will allow validation of the measurement results. Additional recording teams are working in the field to develop the basis of a map of the substrates in the project area.

Digital silvicultural consulting tool for forestry practice

Based on the surveys of site characteristics and already available data sets (such as on climatic parameters, digital elevation model, soil data from previous projects), models for classification will be applied to characterize the heat, nutrient and water budgets of forest sites and to present them as thematic maps covering the whole area. By intersecting the individual thematic maps, site units with specific combinations of characteristics can then be derived and spatially represented for the entire forest area.

As a final product, an advisory tool for forestry practice will be developed, which offers concrete recommendations for a site-adapted, “climate-fit” tree species selection under the aspect of climate change for each forest site of the study area. It enables forest owners to digitally retrieve the effects of climate warming on their forest for the next 80 years in high spatial resolution (scale 1:25,000) and to incorporate them into their silvicultural decisions, especially for tree species selection.

The project is led by the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences (BOKU), project partners besides BFW are Karl-Franzens-University Graz, WLM Büro für Vegetationsökologie und Umweltplanung, ALPECON Wilhelmy Technisches Büro für Geowissenschaften, mjp Ziviltechniker GmbH, Zentralanstalt für Meteorologie und Geodynamik (ZAMG) and Geologische Bundesanstalt (GBA).