Forest Inventory of the Federal Research Centre for Forests (BFW) - Data and facts

The Forest Inventory of the Federal Research Centre for Forests (BFW) is the largest investigation and survey of its kind. With its key figures, it provides an important basis for domestic forest and environmental Policy.

The Forest Inventory has been carried out for several decades. For this purpose, investigations and surveys are performed at more than 5,500 locations. The organisational and technical aspects are handled by the BFW. The latest results were presented in January 2019.

Basic key figures

Almost 48% of Austria‘s national territory is covered with forest. The Provinces of Styria and Carinthia have the highest share of forest, with more than 60 % of the Province‘s area being forested in each case. Although Vienna, as a conurbation, has, as expected, the lowest proportion of forest, even there 23 % of the Province‘s territory is covered with forest.

Overall, the survey showed that increment exceeds consumption. Over the past 10 years, the forest share has grown by an average of 3,400 hectares per year, which corresponds to an annual increase by 4,762 soccer fields. As a result, the total forest area has for the first time exceeded 4 million hectares.

Development and outlook 

The survey shows a clear trend towards more deciduous and mixed forest, whereas the coniferous forest stock is declining overall. Above all, the beech and maple stands have increased, which matches species diversity and the set biodiversity goals. Furthermore, deciduous and mixed forests are more stable and also more resistant, both to pest infestation and to climate change.

Forest use

In comparison to the last forest inventory, an increase in forest use was observed: Currently, about 88% of the renewable wood is used, which leads to an overall reduction of the dependence on fossil resources. This aspect is particularly important for the goals of the BMLRT in the field of the bio-economy, the path to an oil-free society.

The use and management by large holdings has remained more or less the same over the reference period. The Federal Forests have reduced the use of renewable wood to 76%. In the case of small forests (less than 200 ha), an overall increase in forest utilisation was observed, which emphasises a positive trend. This is because managed and cultivated forests in particular make a significant contribution to climate protection and serve as protective forest and recreation area.

Women in forestry

Women play an important role in forestry: 30% of the owners of small forests are female and 25% of the forest area is owned by women. However, only 11% of the forestry workers are women. For this reason a mentoring programme for women was recently launched.

Economic significance of the forest

The production value of forests along the entire value chain amounts to 12 billion euros. The average export surplus is 3.5 billion euros. A total of around 172,000 holdings are involved in this value creation, and 300,000 people earn an income from it.

Climate change and climate protection

Domestic forests constitute an essential pillar of climate protection: Forests and their soils sequester about 3.6 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalents, which is about 40 times the annual emissions in Austria. Every cubic metre of wood sequesters almost one tonne of CO2.

Climate change poses great challenges for domestic forests. For example, the year 2018 was marked by a strong bark beetle infestation. According to estimates, about 4 million solid cubic metres of wood were damaged, which is the highest damage ever recorded. The high pest pressure is mainly due to long periods of drought. Spruce stands are particularly affected. If necessary, these must be felled quickly and removed from the forest. Last year, extensive emergency programmes were adopted for this purpose.

Protection against natural hazards

Domestic forests play an important role in protecting against natural hazards, especially in the alpine region. 800,000 hectares of forest stands are considered protective forest and thus contribute to the protection of settlement areas. Within the framework of torrent and avalanche control, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Regions and Tourism (BMLRT) provides funds to ensure these functions of the forest, which are important for life and limb, in the best possible way. 

published at 25.08.2020, Kommunikation und Service (Abteilung Präs. 5)