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Forests in Vorarlberg

by Alexander Sohm last modified 2007-01-08 12:35

About one third of Vorarlberg is covered with forests.  That is about 94,000 hectares or 232,279 acres.  These forests and the diversity that can be found within them are indispensable regeneration and recreation areas for the region.  The wood in the forests is not only an important raw material, but it also creates thousands of jobs.  Over 3,500 people live from the forest industry.  These pristine forests also protect us from avalanches and land slides and safe guard our drinking water and very important for the tourism industry.    We live from the forest – a fact that not many people are aware of.   Since people settled here, a cultural forest was created which can only fulfil its purpose if it is used and cared for by the people who live here.  Protection through use is the motto for a cultural forest like the one that exists in Vorarlberg that is a large portion of the basis for existence.

About half of our forests are protection and avalanche forests.  They protect villages and roads from the effects of landslides and avalanches.  If these protection and avalanche forests were no longer here, more than two thirds of the region would be in danger.  The material damages would be enormous.  It is our responsibility to preserve the forests in the region through the right kind of care, regeneration and protection measures.

The semi-natural layout of the forest in Vorarlberg can be seen in the distribution of the different types of trees.  Most of the areas have well balanced mixed forests.  50% of the forest is Spruce followed by the Queen of the trees, the Silver Fir with 25%. The fact that there is hardly a difference between the distribution of trees in an industrial forest, the one used mainly for the production of wood, and the protection forest speaks for the close to natural utilization of the forests. 

In Vorarlberg the forest ends at about 1,700 meters above sea level, but it can reach a height of 2,000 meters like in the Montafon.  Two thirds of the trees grow in an altitude of over 1,000 meters above sea level. What is especially important for the forest in its role as  protector  can be seen in the fact that 28,00 hectares of forest grow on an incline of over 60%. 

The yearly growth rate of timber is 6.6 solid cubic meters per hectare.  This means that two times as much wood grows as is being utilized in Vorarlberg.  This creates a high level of usable timber reserves but on the other hand the obsolescence of the forest is a natural effect.  With about 1/5 of the trees in our forests being over 140 years old, regeneration becomes especially important.  


P06-4 forests in vorarlberg.mp3

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