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Meaning of the Forest

by Alexander Sohm last modified 2007-01-08 13:11

The forest was and is of high value in Austria for the development of society.  In earlier times it was used for the production of wood, as pasture land, as hunting grounds and as protection from enemies.  Today we have an even longer list of things that the forest does for us, like securing water reserves, filtering the air, protecting us from avalanches, producing carbon dioxide, and so on.  Our forest is a multi-functional habitat.

About 16% or 8,865 hectares of the Montafon – not including the villages of Lorüns and Stallehr, are forested.  This forest is an especially true to nature character element of our cultural landscape and an important factor in the beauty of the landscape.  As a basis for life for people and animals, the forest has five jobs that it must do.

1. Utilization

Timber is a local, re-growable construction material and fuel which has hundreds of years of traditions behind it.  In the Standeswald or Stand Forest in Montafon there is a reserve of 2.9 million solid cubic meters of wood.  With this amount of wood, you could actually load a cargo train from Bludenz all the way to Vienna.   The average growth rate is 6.6 solid meters per year and hectare.  That means that five truckloads of wood grow every day in the Stand Forest.

2. Protection

For the people of the Montafon, the function of a protection forest is the most important of all.  Especially when you think that if it weren’t for the protection forest, the Montafon wouldn’t have been able to have been settled.  The job of around 90% of the forest in the Montafon is to protect.  It protects against avalanches, rock falls, and erosion.  A forest is the most effective preventer of erosion, ever.  This is mostly because it dampens the flow of water.  The various layers of a forest, the crown, the bush layer, the herb layer and the moss layer disperse the rain, that is, break up the rain into smaller and smaller drops and with that reduce the power of impact.  The roots of the trees not only anchor themselves in the ground, but at the same time, hold tightly onto it.  The forest not only protects the place where it is growing but it also protects settlements and infrastructure.  For this reason it is the goal of the Stand Montafon to preserve the protection role of the forest.  It is therefore also their responsibility to guarantee the role of protection forest through proper care and protection measures on the one side and on the other side by treating the forest with respect.

3. Welfare

Securing sustainable water reserves, filtering pollutants, dust and gasses and bonding CO2 which is relevant for the climate are important welfare functions of the forest.  The forest has a compensating effect on its surroundings.  Because it acts like a big shield, less snow collects in the forest and on the other side, the thawing period is delayed.  This delays the water flow and times of drought can be bridged with a relatively high dispersal of water.  This is the forests most important function in the regions water supply.  Almost as important as the way it cleans polluted or dirty water.

4. Recreation

The region of Montafon lives from tourism.  Thousands of people looking for a place to rejuvenate come to the Montafon with its mountains, forests, lakes and Alpine meadows.  The people who live here all year round are also drawn to nature here.  Whether enjoying the great outdoors by foot, cable car, skis or by bike, the door is always open.  The forest plays an important role here because it addresses all five senses: we can smell the scent of the pine trees, taste the wild berries, hear the leaves rustle in the breeze and feel the different textures.

5. Habitat

The forest is not only a place for people to live, but also for a variety of plants and animals.  Since the amendments were made to the Austrian Forestry Regulations in the year 2002, the forest has been awarded the title of habitat.  Besides the four above mentioned functions of the forest, it now officially serves as the habitat for all different kinds of plants and animals that need certain forest conditions to live – like biotope wood.


P06-1 meaning of the wood.mp3

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