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The Valley of Tyrol

Tyrol plans to plant mixed forests against future flooding

Tyrol plans to plant mixed forests against future flooding

A study pointed out that conifers are the perfect species for the job

A new study commissioned by the state of Tyrol in Austria shows that a mixed and well-managed forest can have a significant impact when it comes to flood prevention. The study was published on 9 August, and it identifies conifers in particular as a species capable of great water retention.

Conifers are really important

The study clearly shows the importance of conifers. The spruce, sadly, is under pressure from climate change and has a very hard time surviving under 1,000 meters altitude. At the same time, conifers have proven to be more resilient.

Tyrolean state forest director, Josef Fuchs, explained that conifers are particularly good in mild winters, where they can retain and evaporate considerable amounts of water in contrast to larches.

Absorbing 40% more water than grassland

It is well established that forests are good for protection against avalanches and falling rocks but they have an important function in flood protection as well – they absorb 40% more water than grasslands.

A well-placed and mixed forest can help store and evaporate a lot of water and after the recent flood disaster in Austria, Tyrol has started collaborating with South Tyrol, its adjacent province in Italy, through an Interreg programme for reforesting.

The study helped validate the Austrian state’s push to establish new forests and the better management of old ones as protection against natural disasters. The local government plans to use the “Climate Smart Mountain Forest” programme – a cooperative built around the idea of forest preservation and expansion, to further speed up the efforts in the state. The programme will help provide a variety of trees – a mixed forest with different types of roots provides a stabilising effect on slopes at risk of erosion.

In principle, the forest should be able to take care of itself, slowly reclaiming the land, however, with the increased frequency and magnitude of the disasters, human intervention is also necessary.  

Director Fuchs explained that, with the new information, the state can create a better advisory practice for forest surveillance and maintenance, while focusing efforts on controlling and mitigating natural hazards.

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