Thermenlinie – Wiener Becken – Wienerwald, Austria (Federal state of Lower Austria)
Thermenlinie – Wiener Becken, Austria is home to the valuable and threatened ecosystems of dry grasslands, wet meadows and bogs. This region is a biodiversity hotspot within Europe, with the highest amount of higher plant species and threatened higher plant species in Austria. Although floodplains and water courses still exist, the region is challenged by a decrease in ground water and drinking water supply. Additionally, the region is suffering from rapid loss of biodiversity in the grasslands, as well as loss of ecologically valuable ecosystems. This decrease in natural capital is due to increases in urban development, intensive agriculture, decrease in grazing livestock and a social-natural disconnect.
Losing an average of 22 hectares of farmland daily (i.e. 5% of farmland area per year), Austria has one of the fastest decreasing agricultural areas in Europe. In particular, urban sprawl is strongly connected with the successive loss of the country’s most fertile soils. Population growth, urban sprawl and ground sealing are especially relevant in a few ‘hot spots’, such as in and around Vienna. Land use has to be urgently changed in the region due to the interdependencies of land use groups. Developing collective processes is vital to reaching solutions to these problems.
200 Years ago the Vienna basin consisted of big areas of wet meadows and dry grasslands (in addition to alluvial forests). With the invention of chemical fertilisers and tractors a big part of this basin was converted to fields. By winning back wet meadows and grasslands (restoration) spaces, on the one hand, and transforming fields from conventional to biological agriculture, on the other hand, an enormous contribution for restoration/rescue of biodiversity/carbon reduction/sequestration could be achieved. Initially, our goal was to save existing biodiversity hotspots. Since, we have moved to nature education, children and young adults. The ultimate vision is to integrate all people who want to work for nature. Currently we are at a moment of shifting from being an association to being ‘the Nature Network Region’ – formulating a new and bottom-up vision together with key stakeholders.
- Intensive agriculture (missing landscape structures, pesticides, irrigation, lack of natural grazing by wild animals or livestock grazing).
- Intensive industry – enlargement of local quarries.
- Intensive recreational use (very close to Vienna or even part of Vienna with 2 million inhabitants in Vienna, about 2.4 million in the region).
- Urban expansion (cities, towns, roads, and commercial areas) is considered a big problem in the region; the restrictions of the states & municipalities for dedicating new land for building are not strict enough.
- Restoration of dry grasslands, wet meadows, and bogs to increase biodiversity, carbon sequestration and climate resilience.
- Shifting to regenerative farming and alternative crops.
- LPV is already working on community-activation, which integrates people of all ages, backgrounds and organisations.
- Connecting politics to the environment: LPV has already had success in 28 communities and 2 districts of Vienna support their work.