By Amanda Peacher
In a region of Austria known as the wood quarter, a logger used a chainsaw to slice through the base of a 100-foot tall spruce tree on a recent foggy morning.
Herbert Schmid, a forester, watched from a distance as the big spruce dropped to the forest floor. Schmid handpicked that particular tree to be cut today. He manages this forest according to “close-to-nature” practices, or Pro Silva standards.
It’s an ancient technique of astute observation, low-intervention forestry that allows trees to grow and age before harvest. Forestry experts say it’s a valuable model as European forests face climate change and potentially more fires.
By Georgina Wilson-Powell
FOR FOREST-The Unending Attraction of Nature brings trees to the terraces this autumn.
Artist Klaus Littmann is creating a central European forest of 300 trees within the Wörthersee football stadium in Klagenfurt into Austria as an enormous public art installation.
The work puts trees and our view of nature firmly in the spotlight instead of soccer stars and people will be able to view the forest during the day and night and watch the turning of the autumn leaves, as if it was a sporting fixture.
It’s based on a drawing from 1937, The Unending Attraction of Nature, by Austrian artist and architect Max Peintner, that Littmann discovered almost thirty years ago.
According to Littmann, FOR FOREST, also provokes the feeling of a future memorial for nature and the fact we so often take it for granted. One day, he points out, we might be reduced to viewing ‘nature’ in this way, in designated urban spaces, much like animals in a zoo.
16 varieties of trees will be used in the forest, which were selected from tree nurseries in Italy, Germany and beyond. They were transported to Austria on lorries already on existing routes and have been cared for locally for the last six months.
The trees were selected by renowned landscape architect Enzo Enea, and have been chosen to recreate the mixed forest that once thrived in Austria before industrialisation. One of the issues explored by the project is how what we consider to be nature is not actually natural, but monoculture cultivated for profit by industry.
Once this incredible art installation is finished, the trees will be replanted locally as a permanent feature near the stadium.
By Charolette Duck
Harvesting trees for energy and commercial use goes against most people’s idea of sustainability. Although lumber practices happening across Austria suggest that this isn’t always the case.
WHEN IT COMES to finding new ways to create energy, there’s an assumption that the solution must come from something new. In Austria, however, experts are showing that this is not necessarily the case. Particularly when it comes to something as elementary as burning wood – which is as old as the proverbial hills.
Wood has been used as a heat source for thousands of years, and a power source for more than a century, but the relationship between deforestation and global warming has caused it to be overlooked as a potential alternative source of energy. However, new forestry production and management techniques trialled in Austria suggest that trees might actually have a key role to play in helping to sustainably satisfy our demand for energy – the key is being smart about how we do it.
With forests covering almost half the country – 47 per cent in fact – you don’t have to go far to find a tree in Austria. So, it’s unsurprising that the nation would look to harness this natural resource for its energy needs. But, sustainable forestry is more complicated than just cutting down one tree and replacing it with another. Some clever thinking is required.
“A forest owner has to determine the total volume of growth in their forest per year, every ten years,” says Christian Rakos of the European Pellet Council. “If 1000 cubic metres of wood are added every year by growth of the trees, this is the volume you can cut each year.” Formulas such as this have helped shaped laws that govern the progressive forestry industry in Austria. The math might be a little tricky, but in Austria, any deviation from this formula is taken very seriously indeed– so much so that there are special authorities who ensure that forestry laws are respected. What’s more, these forest police must approve any cutting that’s larger than half a hectare, and check regularly to ensure that harvested areas are replanted immediately, or will naturally regenerate within five years.
Similarly, endangered species are also carefully monitored, and forestry near their habitats severely restricted. If the worst should happen and a forest is wiped out unexpectedly by natural disaster, say from a storm, disease or pests, then the number of harvestable trees the following year will be reduced accordingly.
They might be strict, but these tactics are certainly working. After all, forty percent of Austria’s annual forest growth remains untouched each year, with the net result being that forests are actually increasing in size.