BAB 051/22: Project ÖKO-SCHU-WA The economic relevance of protection forests in Austria

Project Management: Alexandra Freudenschuss, Peter Mayer (BWF - Federal Research and Training Centre for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape)

The WF project ÖKO-SCHU-WA was submitted by the BWF on 8.2.2022. In a sub-project, the BAB takes over the processing of socio-scientific questions within the framework of the overall project.

Initial situation

Natural hazards are a significant cause of threats to life, quality of life and well-being. They can also have a significant negative impact on the regional economy and thus on the national economy. In Austria, there are good findings on the economic consequences of natural hazards and the benefits of preventive measures with regard to avalanches, torrents and floods. This research project focuses on the importance of defence against natural hazards through protection forests. Available data indicate that the protective effect of forests has not reached the desired target state everywhere in the course of the last decades. In many protected zones, economic dynamics have increased sharply in some cases, and thus also vulnerability. The economic implications of this are currently insufficiently known. Lack of knowledge can lead to inadequate action and failure to take care measures or to unwillingness to pay compensation.


The central objective of the project is to assess the economic importance of the ecosystem services of protection forests in Austria with regard to their impact on damage prevention or mitigation and to explore possibilities to further maintain or improve and expand these impacts. For this purpose, it is necessary to create evidence in several working steps, namely on different levels with the methods of different disciplines. The following sub-goals are aimed at:

WP 1 Status analysis: Quantification of the extent of the potential impact, of a lacking or insufficient protective effect of forests for settlements, employment and value creation and identification of those regions that are particularly affected.
WP 2 Impact analysis Value at Risk: Determination of the regional and economic consequences in the case of a reduced protective effect in a scenario of inaction, i.e. allowing (further) degradation of the protection forests.
WP 3 Impact analysis of condition improvement: Identification of the regional and economic consequences of securing the protective effect by improving the condition of the protection forests and guaranteeing the protective effect in the long term.
WP 4 Optimal management of local public goods: Exploration and identification of the prerequisites for the optimal provision of local public goods and their relevance for the management of protection forests in Austria.
WP 5 Empirical survey: Identification of barriers and success factors that hinder or facilitate the optimal provision of protection through forests in affected regions based on regional case studies in Austria.
WP 6 Conclusions: Concrete proposals for new options for the optimised use of forest policy instruments and natural hazard management measures for protection forests.

The BAB will participate in work package 5 and analyse the actors and networks in the environment of protection forests, their interests, power structures and options for action in four case regions in four different federal states using social science methods, as well as identifying measures that could be taken to improve the conservation status and the impact of protection forests. From the results, new information situations arise in concrete spatial contexts, which confront those affected with new challenges. Together with them, it will be explored whether and to what extent the approaches to solutions identified in the literature can lead to the optimisation of the protective effect in the respective regional and socio-cultural context.

Work 2022

- Participation in project meetings (kick-off and ongoing meetings) as well as in the advisory board.
- Coordination of the BAB work packages with WIFO and BFW and definition of the project goals

Work 2023

- Qualitative interviews with stakeholders in four study regions and analysis of existing materials
- Transcription of the tape-recorded interviews
- Analysis of the interviews using the computer-assisted qualitative data and text analysis tool MaxQDA
- Evaluation and interpretation of the results
- Discussion of the results with the project partners and stakeholders
- Documentation, publication


Project start: 03/2022
Project end: 06/2024

Mountains and Forest

Mountains and Forest

Straundl | Pixabay

Project Status


Project Leader



Rural Sociology and Library



MMag.a Sigrid EGARTNER

Rural Sociology and Library
GRUENEIS, Heidelinde Heidelinde GRUENEIS

Mountain Areas Research and Regional Development

Mag.a Theresia OEDL-Wieser

Rural Sociology and Library
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