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LIFE Salzachauen - Riparian Forest Restoration (LIFE Salzachauen)
Start date: Oct 1, 2015, End date: Dec 31, 2020 PROJECT  FINISHED 

Background The Natura 2000 site “Salzachauen” covers an area of 1 145 ha and is located on the right side of the River Salzach. It stretches from the north of the town of Salzburg up to the border to the Upper Austria region. The Natura 2000 site includes an SCI site and a SPA site (Salzachauen), which largely overlap. Within the project area the lower parts of the River Salzach belong to the few rivers in the alpine upland that are not dammed. About 60 km of free flowing river course stretches from Salzburg to the mouth of the River Salzach into the River Inn. The floodplains of the Salzach belong to the largest wetlands of Austria. Despite being surrounded by urban structures of a densely populated region, the alluvial area is home to numerous endangered species and habitats. It provides important habitats for protected breeding and resting birds. Currently, the ecological conditions in the Salzachauen are unfavourable and the natural potential of the region is not satisfactorily developed. The main problems are intensive forestry associated with a high share of non-natural vegetation, insufficient morphologic dynamics, hunting, lack of alluvial water bodies, as well as unsatisfactory cooperation with the fishery and tourism sectors. Objectives The LIFE Salzachauen project aims to significantly improve the condition of the Salzachauen as one of Austria ́s most important alluvial forests. This will be achieved in a demonstrative way by using the high potential of Salzachauen’s habitats and species and by adopting sustainable tourism practices. The project will carry out conservation measures on 118 ha of alluvial forest ecosystem and optimise natural processes for target habitats and species. The specific objectives of the project are to: 1. Optimise the habitat qualities of the alluvial forests in the Weitwörther Au; 2. Improve hydrological and morphological dynamics; 3. Carry out ecological wildlife management instead of trophy hunting; 4. Increase the spawning grounds for amphibians; 5. Transform the “Ausee” into a rich habitat for fish and birds; and 6. Inform visitors about Natura 2000 conservation objectives. Expected results: Alluvial forest: o 118 ha of alluvial forests purchased; o 60 ha of the habitat 91E0 developed and safeguarded; o 13 ha of the habitat 91F0 developed and safeguarded; o 26 ha of near-natural alluvial forests purchased and then left to natural processes; o 16 ha of plantations transformed; o 55 ha of forests left to natural processes after initial measures; o The whole alluvial forest of the Weitwörther Au, 118 ha in size, left over to natural processes and permanently safeguarded; and o Ecological wildlife management on 118 ha. The Ausee: o The Ausee (10.5 ha) developed into a typical alluvial water body through revitalisation – an optimised habitat for indigenous fishes and a breeding, feeding and resting habitat for many bird species; o Terminating of fishing; and o Established population of the European bitterling (Rhodeus amarus) in the Ausee. 4 ha of lowered alluvial areas; 1 500 m of restored Reitbach brook (local measures, removal of riparian vegetation along 300 m, broadening of banks through lowering the area; Improving of the whole Reitbach brook between the Salzach ramp and its junction into the Salzach at a length of 3 200 m – a new habitat for indigenous fishes; Five new spawning grounds for amphibians; and New LIFE infrastructure for visitors.

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