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Global warming leads to extended droughts with negative consequences that have already become quite obvious in the forests of Austria’s Waldviertel. WEB Windenergie AG wants to make sure that the forests in their home region are ready for the future. For this reason, W.E.B has been working with Austrian Federal Forests (Österreichische Bundesforste) to plant the “Forest of the Future” on a piece of land close to the headquarters of W.E.B. The several distinct forest areas are intended to present examples of what a regional forest could look like in order to master the challenges of climate change. On June 13, the children of W.E.B employees planted the first beeches and oaks of the future mixed deciduous forest.
“In the eyes of W.E.B, climate protection means more than generating clean energy. As the name of the region already suggests, the people in Austria’s Waldviertel (German for “Forest Quarter”) live in harmony with their forests. Today we have taken a first step to ensure our forests stay healthy and alive for many generations to come,” as the Chair of the Board of Directors, Frank Dumeier, describes the ambitions of W.EB.
“And we will keep adding more and larger areas next fall.” Robert Nusser, project manager and cooperation partner at Austrian Federal Forests, continues, “When W.E.B asked us to support them in planting a model forest on their property, we immediately agreed to their wonderful idea. We have been studying climate-related changes in our forests for many years and were more than happy to share our knowledge. Together we developed a concept for the new forest areas and selected the ideal species of trees for the region to adjust the forest to future climate conditions.”
The “W.E.B Forest” will be divided into four zones, each representing a different vision of a forest. Most forests in the region do not correspond to their original character anymore. Although nothing changes about the commercial purpose of the forests, their benefits are much more diverse. The first zones will become a mixed deciduous forest, mainly comprising oaks and hornbeams. This is precisely the zone that was planted on June 13. Zone 2 already demonstrates a considerable level of natural regeneration with young birches and willows sprouting out of the ground. There will be no active planting measures in Zone 2, as this natural regeneration enables us to draw valuable conclusions about the natural succession of species of trees without human intervention in this area. W.E.B will dedicate Zone 3 specifically to the question of how wind energy and forests might be able to complement each other. Zone 4 will be a commercial forest. The spruce – the traditional “bread tree” in Waldviertel’s forestry – will be replaced by locally more suitable and climate-robust species of tree, such as firs, Douglas firs or larches. At the same time, the already active regeneration of hardwood will be preserved to accomplish a tree species composition of highest environmental stability.
There will be a special nature trail to make sure the “Forest of the Future” is also open to the public. Information boards will explain the purpose of the project to visitors and raise awareness for the future challenges to forestry in Austria.