Woodland is an important habitat, covering an area of 50% in the National Park. It was a vital resource in the region in former times. A great deal has changed from the production of charcoal to modern forestry management. The transformation from spruce-dominated commercial forests to a well-structured mixed woodland of spruce, fir and beech in the Gesäuse National Park will also take time.
The forest management plan describes how the National Park aims to achieve this goal.
There are already some very natural or near-natural forest stands in the Gesäuse in inaccessible places. These are important sanctuaries for our wild animals. The last remains of natural woodland occur along the Enns in the flood zones of the riparian forest. In the Zwischenmäuer area along the Johnsbach the steep south-facing slopes hold Scots pine woodland. And high up close to the timberline you pass through larch and Swiss stone pine woodland which is several hundred years old.
The woodland veriety in the Gesäuse
The great variety of woodland in the Gesäuse is fascinating and led Jürgen Thum (retired director of the Styrian Forest Agency) to write his silvicultural dissertation on the forests of the Gesäuse. Based on this work, the National Park was able to identify a total of 50 specific woodland types by means of a site survey. For further details, please refer to the research reports in the Publications section of our website. A simplified summary with 22 different types of woodland is shown on the forest map of the Gesäuse National Park produced in 2009.
The long-term aim in the National Park is to have well-structured site-adapted woodlands which are subject to natural regeneration and decay. An idea of what these woods might look like can be had from a few remote places in the National Park. At our latitudes these "primeval forests" can only be seen on a large scale in the Dürrenstein Wilderness Area. This forms a reference for us and shows the direction we should aim for in the future. Species-rich woodlands from regionally adapted tree stock are in any case more resistant to disease, widespread attack from spruce bark beetle and also large-scale collapse due to extreme weather events.
Currently, apart from the dwarf pine scrub, spruce forest is still the most widespread forest type in the Gesäuse. They each occupy approx. 15% of the area. The beech forest and fir/spruce/beech woodland currently only amount to around 12% but after successful conversion would become the dominant forest type in the Gesäuse with around 25%. It is the work of generations to achieve this aim and provides a great challenge to the administration of the National Park. However, the indisputable effects of climate change will accelerate and assist this process.