|Biosphere Reserve Information|
© Photo: Grosses Walsertal BR
Six villages within a single alpine valley form the Grosses Walsertal Biosphere Reserve, situated in the western part of Austria. The valley is a prime example of a living cultural landscape, where, since its occupation by the Walser people in the 13th and 14th centuries, a system of highly adapted mountain farming, pasture and extensive forestry has been developed. Today, the mosaic of open land, forests and traditional settlements is the origin of very high animal and plant diversity. Some geological particularities, for example karst features and gypsum springs, are the result of a very diverse geology.
Some 3,360 permanent residents live in the transition area of the biosphere reserve (1999). Up to 171,880 overnight stays of tourists are registered in 1999.
Nevertheless, as is the case for almost all mountain landscapes in Europe and elsewhere, the costs and the human effort of maintaining the traditional land use systems have now become very high.
The exceptional approach of the Grosses Walsertal Biosphere Reserve is that local communities have used the biosphere reserve as a means to empower themselves to work together in order to meet the challenges of the future. Since local people know best their region, its advantages and problems, as well as their own ideas and aspirations, they now try to foster partnerships and to promote the community as a whole. Already two years before the designation as a biosphere reserve, in 1999, many inhabitants of the valley worked together to write a ‘Leitbild’ (overall concept), setting out a common future vision, the objectives to be reached and the principles to be respected to attain them. After this process, the first projects started, such as a painting competition for schools to find a logo for the biosphere reserve, a ‘biosphere reserve menu’ in restaurants with local products to make the biosphere reserve more visible in everyday tourism or a newspaper (‘Blickwinkel - point of view’) which serves for networking between the valley’s inhabitants.
|Major ecosystem type||Mixed mountain and highland systems|
|Major habitats & land cover types||Bush vegetation with Pinus mugo and Rhododendron hirsutum including Rubus saxatilis, Cypridedium calceolus, Daphne striata and D. mezereum; Pinus unicata forests characterized by species such as Cypripedium calceolus and Ophrys insectifera; alpine and subalpine limestone grassland with Carex ferruginea, Lilium martagon, Allium victorialis, Gentiana lutea and Leontopodium alpinum; spruce forests characterized by Vaccinium myrtillus, Listera cordata, Lycopodium annotinum, Tetrao tetrix, T. urogallus and Bonasa bonasia; alpine farming systems; forestry systems|
|Location||47°13'N; 9°55'E (central point)|
|Transition area(s) when given||2,824|
|Altitude (metres above sea level)||+580 to +2,704|
|Administrative authorities||Biosphere Park Committee for the Great Walser Valley Biosphere Park, reporting to Local Government Office of Bludenz and Provincial Government of Vorarlberg, Bregenz|
|Last updated: 5/19/2009|