Biodiversity in Austria
In general, a habitat with a high level of biodiversity is more productive and more resistant to disturbances. This diversity is directly reflected in economic aspects and also safeguards services and goods that are of importance to humans.
A third of the plants found worldwide requires the help of animals such as insects, birds or bats for pollination. A third of global food production is directly or indirectly dependent on pollination by insects. As the largest group, 20,000 species of bees are responsible for 80 percent of pollination by insects. Protecting and maintaining various habitats is an important approach for preserving and promoting biodiversity. This not only benefits the many already endangered animal and plant species, but also increases the quality of life for humans.
Biodiversity in Austria
Austria is one of the most species-rich countries in Europe. As a result of its geographic circumstances and natural landscape conditions, it has an extremely large range of habitats and species. In total, around 67,000 species exist in Austria, including about 45,000 animal species and 3,000 ferns and flowering plants. The diversity of species and habitats in Austria is, however, under strong pressure. The causes for this are, among others, soil sealing, the destruction of habitats, climate change but also light emissions.
27 percent of the mammals and 27 percent of the birds are endangered. Additionally, 57 percent of the total 93 forest biotope types are classified as endangered. Among the grassland biotope types, 90 percent are assigned to a category of endangerment.
The situation in Austria is comparable to all other countries in the European Union (EU). The EU has lost over half of its wetlands, and more than 40 percent of the mammals are endangered. In May 2020, the European Commission presented the “EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030” as one of the central initiatives of the European Green Deal. It sets out the objectives for the protection and restoration of biodiversity in the EU. The strategy emphasises the fact that investments in the protection and restoration of nature are also of vital importance for Europe’s recovery from the Covid-19 crisis and the regeneration of the economy. The EU Member States are requested to specify their national contributions to achieve the EU Biodiversity objectives.
Austria also has a National Biodiversity Strategy, which contains objectives and measures for all the relevant policy areas. With the Biodiversity Fund, the Austrian Federal Government also created a funding channel that is intended to contribute to the implementation of the Austrian Biodiversity Strategy and the achievement of the Austrian biodiversity objectives.
The national biodiversity monitoring is also of great importance here, particularly as concerns verifying the implementation of the Austrian Biodiversity Strategy and the effectiveness of its measures. Systematically collected information on the existence, the condition and the development of species and ecosystems provides insights into the causes of the losses of biodiversity, and therefore important foundations for countermeasures.
The Convention on Biological Diversity
The Convention on Biological Diversity is an important international environmental agreement. It already entered into force on 29 December 1993. The areas of focus are protection, sustainable use of biodiversity and equitable sharing of the benefits from the use of genetic resources. More than 190 states have ratified this convention so far, including Austria.
The improvement of school education and public relations work is required, as is, for example, consideration of biodiversity in environmental impact assessments. The provisions on access to genetic resources and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from their use are also of considerable importance. Every two years, Conferences of the Parties take place, at which provisions, measures and work programmes are set out.