EU Biodiversity strategy

Austria - Contribution to the mid-term review of the EU biodiversity strategy to 2020 based on the 5th national report to CBD

To report on progress to the EU 2020 biodiversity strategy, the European Commission extracted relevant information from the EU Member States’ 5th national reports to the CBD. Of the 5 countries which had not finalized their national reports at the time of the synthesis (26th of August 2015), Greece, Malta, Portugal and Lithuania provided information to be included in the synthesis.

The 5th national reports were examined, and relevant information on selected actions under Targets 1-6 of the EU biodiversity strategy was directly copied. Thus, the information presented here is in the original language and wording of the 5th national reports.

The focus was on information that is particular to the respective Member State rather than referencing EU wide information. In addition, only information that is not directly reported to the European Commission by Member States was retrieved from the reports. Each Member State had the opportunity to review the synthesis of its report and to provide additional input. For more information, please view here. The 5th national report for Austria can be downloaded here.

EU target 1

Fully implement the Birds and Habitats Directives

(Please note that information from EU Member States in relation to Action 1a is supplied to the European Commission via other reports. To avoid duplication of reporting, information relating to Action 1a has not been included in this report)

Action 3a: Stakeholder awareness and enforcement

  • The campaign vielfaltleben was launched in 2009 by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management in cooperation with many partner organisations – in particular nature and environment NGOs – and has grown ever since.
  • A national network of local governments contributing to the conservation of biodiversity has been established.
  • According to information from the Austrian Naturschutzbund, a total of 5 million people have been reached by means of the campaign. 45,000 people received the campaign newsletter; 55,000 persons visited the website, with a total of 1.7 million hits.
  • Every year, a "Week of Biodiversity” is being organised in cooperation with more than 100 partners, staging more than 200 events on biodiversity across Austria. Many other events have been carried out aiming at strengthening the awareness of society on biodiversity.
  • The Austrian Strategy for Education for Sustainable Development (2008) aims to support a transformation of awareness toward sustainability among teachers and learners alike and also to interlink the actors involved.

The National Biodiversity Strategy 2005 was evaluated in 2013 using a questionnaire with the goal of gathering knowledge and experiences of Austrian biodiversity stakeholders. The results of the evaluation show that stakeholders consider the Strategy as very relevant for their field of activities.

EU target 2

Maintain and restore ecosystems and their services

Within the new Austrian Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Beyond, Aichi Target 15 corresponds to the objective: Conservation status of species and habitats is improved, with the following specific targets:

  • The conservation status of 36% of habitats and 17% of species of the Habitat Directive in relation to 2007 is improved (2020)
  • The status of threat according to priority settings is improved (2020+)
  • 15% of degraded ecosystems are improved or restored (2020+)
  • Natural processes take place at 2% of Austria's total area (2020+)
  • Climate mitigation measures are set, measures of the Austrian Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in relation to biodiversity are implemented (2020)

Action 6a & 6b: Ecosystem restoration and green infrastructure

Within the new Austrian Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Beyond, Aichi Target 5 corresponds to the objective: The conservation status of species and habitats has improved, with the following specific targets:

  • The conservation status of 36% of habitats and 17% of species of the Habitat Directive in relation to 2007 are improved (2020)
  • The status of threat according to priority setting is improved (2020+)
  • A quantitatively adequate, functional habitat connectivity is established (2020+)
  • 15% of degraded ecosystems have improved or are being restored (2020+)

Re objective: Biodiversity and ecosystem services are taken into account in spatial planning, with the following specific targets:

  • Ecological infrastructure is implemented in spatial planning (2020+)
  • Un-fragmented areas and migration corridors are preserved (2020)
  • Ecological permeability has significantly increased for main roads (2020) Species and habitat conservation measures are the traditional instruments in the management toolbox.

Most activities are executed at the local or federal province level, funded by different sources including EU support. A selection of species protection success stories is provided in chapter 2.3.3. Reducing fragmentation and improving functional connectivity is an agreed goal at the European level. A selection of activities to restore functional connectivity of habitats is provided in chapter 2.3.5.

Within the new Austrian Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Beyond, Aichi Target 8 corresponds to the objective: Pollution is reduced, with the following specific targets:

  • The exceedance of critical loads is reduced (2020)
  • Surface water and groundwater will have a good chemical status by 2015 or 2021/2027. For more information on groundwater pollution in Austria see Chapter 1.3, on acidification and eutrophication see Chapter 1.3.5 and on light pollution see Chapter 1.3.6.

Within the new Austrian Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Beyond, Aichi Target 11 corresponds to the objective: Conservation status of species and habitats is improved, with the following specific targets:

  • The conservation status of 36% of habitats and 17% of species of the Habitat Directive in relation to 2007 is improved (2020)
  • A quantitatively adequate, functional habitat connectivity is established (2020+)
  • 15% of degraded ecosystems are improved or restored (2020+)
  • Approximately 27% of the territory of Austria is protected under various nature conservation categories: 16% as Natura 2000 sites, national parks or nature conservation areas and 12% as less strictly protected sites, such as landscape conservation areas or biosphere parks.
  • In 2013, the high level of water quality was confirmed (e.g. 99% of bathing localities fulfil EU water quality standards) according to the 10th Austrian State of the Environment Report. Remediation priorities up to 2015 include measures for the removal of barriers to fish migration and improving the structures of bodies of water, e.g. by restoring them to their natural state.

Within the new Austrian Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Beyond, Aichi Target 14 corresponds to the objective: Conservation status of species and habitats is improved, with the following specific targets:

  • The conservation status of 36% of habitats and 17% of species of the Habitat Directive in relation to 2007 improved (2020)
  • The status of threat according to priority setting is improved (2020+)
  • 15% of degraded ecosystems are improved or restored (2020+)
  • Natural processes take place at 2% of Austria's total area (2020+)

Based on the work of the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the Environment Agency Austria has established an inventory of Final Ecosystem Goods and Services in the Austrian agricultural sector. The applied classification was suggested by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment and the Common International Classification of Ecosystem Goods and Services (CICES).

EU target 3

Increase the contribution of agriculture and forestry to maintaining and enhancing biodiversity

Target 3a: Agriculture

In total, managed grassland accounts for around 50 % of the agricultural area. Grassland is one of the habitats that are of special importance for preserving biodiversity in Austria. Particular attention has to be paid to extensive grassland that is particularly rich in species but endangered. It includes lowland moors, dry grassland, Nardus grassland, rough pastures and meadows as well as rich meadows with numerous species (mown twice a year at most) in valleys and on mountains. These types of grassland are threatened by intensification (e.g. afforestation) and abandonment (and, thus, overgrowing by scrub or trees). The Alpine forage area has decreased continuously over the past years. This decrease is for the most part due to the more detailed registration of land which has been implemented step by step since the year 2000. For the areas of meadows mown once, rough meadows and scattered meadows the decline is significantly lower.

Target 3a & 3b

Aichi Target 7 is also corresponding to the objective: Agriculture and forestry support conservation and improvement of biodiversity, with the following specific targets: Increase of areas with biodiversity-related agri-environmental measure by 5% (2020)

  • Improvement of the conservation status of 100% of the habitats and 50% of the species of the Habitat Directive in agricultural landscapes and forests compared to 2007 (2020)
  • 50% of status reviews of bird species of agricultural landscape and forests in 2020 show a stable or improved condition
  • The status of threat to 15% of species of agricultural landscape and forests is improved (2020+)
  • Turnaround in Farmland Bird Index (2020)
  • Amount of deadwood, especially in the previously low-appointed natural areas of the Alpenvorland, Mühl- und Waldviertel and in the Eastern parts is increased (2020+)
  • The analysis of population trends of breeding birds according to Article 12 of the Bird Directive revealed a stable trend for 54% of the species within the 2008-2012 reporting period (Fig. 8). Increases and decreases balance each other out for 33 species. Remarkably, the ratio between singing birds and non-singing birds is exactly opposite. While population trends in non-singing birds more often increased (22 vs. 11 species), the opposite was true for singing birds, with negative trends prevailing (again, 22 vs. 11 species). This may be an indication that non-singing birds respond better to specific measures (improving habitat quality, targeted conservation projects), while the more common singing birds benefit less from individual measures but are more affected by general trends in agriculture and forestry.
  • Between 2001 and 2012, more than 1,040 km² of agricultural area were lost in Austria. This decrease in agricultural area does not yet take into account the loss of areas for agricultural management in Alpine areas and for vineyards. Almost one third of the agricultural areas are turning into forests, more than two thirds are being converted into living and transport areas (see indicator BO 1a). Due to the growing of unwelcome forests on these former agricultural areas, forest-covered land has increased by more than 380 km² since 2001.

Any interpretation of the results according to regional information has to bear in mind that data are not updated continuously but only in the framework of large-scale projects and on occasion. Therefore, over certain periods of time regional information does not reflect the actual situation.

The trend of the loss of agricultural areas has been found in all Federal Provinces except Vorarlberg.

Note: More [supporting] information can be found in chapters 1.2, 1.3, and 2.3.

Target 3b: Forestry

  • The naturalness of the composition of tree species provides key information for assessing the human influence on forests in the form of forest management. The results show that the majority of Austrian forests have a natural or semi-natural composition of tree species. This applies especially to coniferous forest areas out of which a total of around 72% fall into these categories. In contrast, this value only amounts to 56% for mixed broadleaf and broadleaf forests. 14% of the forest area belongs the special case of the spruce-fir-beech forest where only one out of the three tree species shaping the forest community is absent. Across all forest communities, the area covered by a natural composition of tree species reaches 31% and with 30% only a little less falls into the category "semi-natural composition of tree species”. For 25% only, the tree species composition considerably differs from the natural one.
  • These analyses do not cover floodplain forests as the potential natural vegetation was not identified for this type of forest. Inaccessible protection forests without yield had to be left out of account, too. However, these forests are likely to be in a semi-natural state almost without exception.

Action 10: Agricultural genetic diversity

Within the new Austrian Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Beyond, Aichi Target 13 corresponds to the objective: Agriculture and forestry support conservation and improvement of biodiversity, with the following specific targets:

  • The total stock of rare livestock breeds is stable to slightly rising (2020)
  • The number of bee hives has increased to 400,000 (2020)

Local varieties of cultivated plants and farmed animals are increasingly popular in Austrian society. The sustainable use of these local breeds is supported by measures at the governmental, retail trade and private levels. Some 4,900 farmers have joined the ÖPUL "Conservation of rare breeds of farm animals” compaign, ensuring the conservation of 31 endangered breeds in Austria. The Austrian Association for Rare Endangered Breeds (ÖNGENE) aims to survey the endangered breeds, take action for their conservation (in private farms, agricultural schools, research institutes, ex-situ conservation) and support scientific work on the genetical structure and the adaptability to changing environments.

Austrian botanic gardens started documenting their ex situ collections of Austrian rare and endangered plant species in 2003 in order to establish a coordinated approach to secure all Austrian threatened species ex situ in botanic gardens (in living collections as well as in seed banks). Recent results (2010) showed that 779 of the 1,798 endangered species are present in ex situ collections, 406 of those with documentation of their origin.

The diversity of local and regional varieties of plants and animals, and hence genetic diversity, has decreased over the last decades. There are governmental and private attempts and campaigns to restore accessibility of such breeds and secure traditional knowledge for future generations but the danger of losing traditional knowledge in various fields of expertise is still imminent (related to Aichi Target 18).

EU target 4

Ensure the sustainable use of fisheries resources and ensuring good environmental status of the marine environment

Action 13a & 13b: Fish stock management

Within the new Austrian Biodiversity Strategy 2020 and Beyond, Aichi Target 6 corresponds to the objective: Game and fish stocks are adapted to carrying capacity/habitats, with the following specific targets:

  • The fishing sector is sustainable (2020+)

In order to satisfy its demand, Austria depends, to a large extent, on imports of marine and freshwater fish. In recent years, Austria has consistently developed a high-quality fish production. The "Aquaculture 2020” strategy should give a strong impetus to considerably increasing the production of Austrian freshwater fish.

The strategy has the following goals:

  • Raising the rate of self-sufficiency for freshwater fish from presently about 34% to 60% by the year 2020. This corresponds to a production increase by 2,400 tonnes to 5,500 tonnes annually.
  1. Trout production: Increase from 2,200 t to 4,000 t
  2. Carp pond farming: Increase from 750 t to 1,000 t
  3. Recirculation systems: Increase from 150 t to 500 t

EU target 5

Combat Invasive Alien Species

Positive developments were locally observed concerning alien species

  • Much progress has been achieved in the last years regarding awareness raising (public exhibitions and conferences, media coverage, dissemination to relevant practitioners, production of leaflets and flyers), scientific research (number of publications increased) and IAS management (control measures and eradication campaigns on the ground, specifically in protected areas).

EU target 6

Help avert global biodiversity loss

Action 17a & 17b: Drivers of biodiversity loss

  • The negative impact of tourism on biodiversity loss is also acknowledged in the most recent national strategy for tourism (2010), but biodiversity goals are not explicitly integrated into this strategy which has focuses more o n economic aspects.
  • The transport of goods and people is of high significance to society and economy, yet causes considerable impact on the environment due to land use, fragmentation, pollution and noise. The national Transport Plan (2012) formulates goals and guidelines of the Austrian transportation policy leading up to 2025.
  • The aim of the Austrian Energy Strategy (2010) is to develop a sustainable energy system that makes energy services available for private consumption as well as for businesses in the future whilst implementing EU rules.
  • The Austrian Action Plan on Resource Efficiency (REAP) (2012) aims to increase resource efficiency to decouple the environmental impact of material use from economic growth.

Action 17c: Drivers of biodiversity loss

  • Financial incentives with negative impacts on biodiversity are avoided, with the following specific target: Relevant incentives including subsidies are being adapted to become biodiversity-friendly (2020+).
  • Beside legal requirements, incentives and the allocation of subsidies allow the monitoring, timing and steering of measures.
  • Changes in national consumer behaviour (e.g. increase use of local products) and production efficiency (e.g. water and energy consumption) will contribute to safeguard biodiversity.
  • Some subsidies may have unwanted negative side effects for biodiversity and should be suspended or reduced.
  • The Strategy suggests that several measures should be worked out in the near future, e.g. the development of criteria to identify subsidies that are harmful to biodiversity and proposes to analyse impacts of subsidies (including socio-economic aspects) and develop incentives for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.

Action 18a: Resources for global biodiversity conservation

It is envisaged that synergies with other funding sources (e.g. climate change mitigation and adaptation) and reducing the effects of harmful subsidies will benefit biodiversity.

  • Cooperation with the business and private sectors are increasingly implemented (e.g. Public Private Partnerships – PPP, Payment for Ecosystem Services – PES).
  • Supporting bilateral environmental measures and conservation projects in partner countries lies within the responsibility of the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), which is the operational unit of the Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC; Österreichische Entwicklungszusammenarbeit OEZA).
  • Some 500 programmes and projects are implemented each year and in 2011, 17% of these activities were related directly to conserve and protect biodiversity.
  • The Austrian Development Cooperation (ADC) supports countries in Africa, Asia, South Eastern and Eastern Europe as well as the Caribbean in their sustainable development.
  • The Austrian Development Cooperation aims at reducing poverty, conserving natural resources and promoting peace and human security in partner countries.
  • The ultimate goal is to bring about a sustainable improvement in conditions of life. The Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the operational unit of ADC, is implementing these together with public institutions, non-governmental organisations and enterprises as well as other public actors.
  • The full implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020 needs increased and better allocation of financial resources from all sources, including national contributions to global biodiversity targets

Action 18a &18b: Resources for global biodiversity conservation

Since 2012, cooperation with the Österreichische Entwicklungsbank AG (Development Bank of Austria) has been providing additional financial investments for business partnerships and projects of private companies in developing countries and emerging markets.

  • Austria joins the European Commission and other international donor countries and foundations in making strategic investments that assist developing countries to achieve the goals and targets in the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020. In 2013, the Austrian government provided a funding package worth 1.6 million Euros through the LifeWeb Initiative (http://lifeweb.cbd.int) to help implement the CBD in four countries:
  1. Democratic Republic of Congo: Rehabilitation of the Yangambi Biosphere Reserve. 431,000 Euros to conduct baseline biodiversity assessments, develop stronger management planning involving local communities and building the capacity of ranger patrols.
  2. People’s Democratic Republic of Lao: Strengthening and enlarging the Protected Area System of Eastern Bolikhamxay Province. 500,000 Euros to build community outreach efforts and strengthen anti-poaching control in a location that plays an important strategic role in Eastern Bolikhamxay, linking three conservation forests.
  3. Bangladesh: Protection of threatened river dolphins in Sundarbans Mangrove Forest. 318,000 Euros to conserve the Ganges River dolphin.
  4. Ethiopia: Protection and restoration of wild coffee species and the Yayu forest where they are growing. 368,000 to protect the genetic diversity of wild coffee varieties in Western Ethiopia through forest protection, restoration of degraded lands and promotion and marketing of forest coffee products.

Action 20: Access to genetic resources and sharing of benefits

Austria has signed the Nagoya Protocol in 2011 and its ratification is expected in 2014 or 2015.