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Wildnisgebiet Dürrenstein (Regular)

Operator: Conservation Area Administration, Dürrenstein Wilderness Area
DEIMS Database: Wildnisgebiet Dürrenstein
Contact: Christoph Leditznig

Site description

The “Wilderness Dürrenstein” is an IUCN category 1a and 1b area of currently 3,500 ha in southwestern Lower Austria on the border to Styria, surrounding the summit of the Dürrenstein (1,878m). In geological terms, Dachstein limestone and dolomite predominate. Mean an­nual temperature is 3.9 °C, with annual precipitation of up to 2,300mm. Accordingly, the site is a relatively cool, rainy and sub-Atlantic climate. Forests within the area comprise typical vegetation for the Northern Limestone Alps. The greater part comprises beech, fir and spruce, with the ancient woodland of Rothwald within the Dürrenstein Wilderness Area being the most important ancient spruce, fir and beech woodland in the entire Alpine range. Deciduous and ravine forests are found on very humid and steep slopes and consist of hardwoods such as sycamore, ash and wych elm.

Natural spruce forests within the region are very small in scale e.g. on scree and in a narrow band along the upper forest limit on rocky sites. Mountain pines continue the woody vegetation in the so-called “Krummholz” zone across the included forest area. Within the forest belt, cliffs and scree are naturally unwooded. In terms of fauna, practically the entire spectrum of eastern Alpine species are represented here, and together with individual brown bears and occasional lynx, typical species such as red deer, chamois and mountain hares should be mentioned. Other typical species are mountain newts, Alpine sa­lamander, adders, the white-backed woodpecker that is rarely found in Austria and above all, the very abundant dead-wood fauna. Tasks and goals:

  • Securing the first Category 1 Wilderness Area according to IUCN criteria in Austria. In concree terms, this means that all human interventions in the Wilderness Area are to be reduced to a minimum. Interventions aimed at securing and improving the natural area must be implemented with clear spatial and temporal limits. This also affects the public right of access.
  • Sustained protection of the natural biotic communities that are present and the undisturbed development of mon¬tane forests. Accordingly, not only is a specific status quo to be preserved but rather the development of natural processes should be guaranteed free from human intervention as far as possible.
  • Preservation and greatest possible improvement to the maintained state of the area through the implementation of management plans (incl. visitor management).
  • Development of an appropriate control system with scientific monitoring.
  • Expert assistance and information for visitors (education and public relations).


  • Schickmann, S., Kräutler, K., Urban, A., Nopp­Mayr, U., Hackländer, K. (2009): Small mammals as vectors for mycorrhizal fungi in Central European mountain forests. , Mammalian Biology, 74 (Spec. issue), 21­22; ISSN 1616­5047 [83rd Annual Meeting of the German Society of Mammalogy, Dresden, GERMANY, SEP 13­17, 2009]

  • Schindlbacher, A.; Zechmeister­Boltenstern, S. & Jandl, R. (2009): Carbon losses due to soil warming: Do autotrophic and heterotrophic soil respira­tion respond equally? Global Change Biology, 2009, 15, 901–913.

  • Schindlbacher, A.; Zechmeister­Boltenstern, S.; Glatzel, G. & Jandl, R. (2007): Winter soil respiration from an Austrian mountain forest. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 2007, 146, 205­215.