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Conservation research against species extinction: Protected areas confront the biodiversity crisis


At the 7th National Parks Austria Research Symposium from September 7-9th, more than 350 participants from Austria and Europe gathered at the University of Vienna campus (Altes AKH) to discuss the current state of research in protected areas.

Protected areas slow down the extinction of species through their conservation measures, but as isolated islands they alone cannot safeguard biodiversity in its entirety. For this reason, it is all the more important that the results obtained through research in protected areas are also made accessible to a broad public. Nationalparks Austria is playing a pioneering role in this respect with both the symposium and the information platform

"Austria is one of the most species-rich countries in Central Europe. We can be proud of this diversity but it also obliges us to fulfill our responsibility in the fight against species extinction. The protection of habitats and untouched nature is essential for this, and science can make an important contribution. I am very pleased that researchers from eught countries come together for the seventh time in the course of the National Parks Austria Research Symposium to exchange ideas on precisely this topic" says the Austrian Minister for Climate Protection, Leonore Gewessler.

From the desiccation of the sodalacken in the Seewinkel to the mushroom diversity in wild forests

The conference, which is organised every four years, was initiated in 1996 by the Hohe Tauern National Park and was planned and implemented this year for the first time in cooperation with the University of Vienna under the direction of the Thayatal National Park. This year’s program included 25 sessions with 106 individual presentations by over 100 researchers as well as numerous poster contributions. Highly topical issues such as the state of the salt ponds in the National Park Neusiedler See - Seewinkel and its consequences for waterfowl, were discussed as well as the pioneering work of fungi in the natural balance or the potential of new technologies in research.

"Research in protected areas is one of the core tasks of national parks, because knowledge about endangered species, their habitats and the development of nature is the prerequisite for effective protection and their management. Bringing the extensive research work in protected areas to the limelight is the goal of this international scientific conference," explains Christian Übl, chairman of Nationalparks Austria and director of the National Park Thayatal. 

Biodiversity research in nature reserves

Nature reserves play a special role in biodiversity research in particular: "Large and strictly protected nature reserves, above all national parks and biosphere reserves, are ideal ‘research platforms’ because landscapes and ecosystems can be studied here in a relatively undisturbed state as a scientific reference," emphasizes Thomas Wbrka, Professor in the Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research at the University of Vienna. He leads the organizing team of the symposium and has been accompanying numerous research projects around the Austrian national parks for years.

"On the other hand, the results of many years of research show more and more clearly that such regions do not function as isolated islands, but are in intensive exchange with their surrounding areas. Especially the national parks in eastern Austria are strongly influenced by the intensive land use of surrounding areas, but they can significantly mitigate the consequences of ecological crises for their neighboring regions. However, this will only be possible in the future if the necessary restoration measures and expansions are implemented quickly and land users are willing to comply with nature-friendly standards," says Wbrka

Research Programs National Parks Austria

Strengthening research in national parks and making it accessible to the general public is a major concern of the Austrian national parks. The symposium is only one of many measures that are implemented in this regard. With the annually announced research award, young scientists who have realised their thesis together with a national park administration are also promoted. Theses can still be submitted until October 15, 2022 at All publications and studies on the Austrian National Parks are also published on the metadata platform, which now contains over 22,000 data sets. All metadata on geodata and publications are also automatically published on the platform "Open Data Österreich" ( With over 3,200 metadata sheets for documents, National Parks Austria is the largest data contributor for publications. In this way, the Austrian national parks also make an important contribution to transparent research and open government data in Austria.

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Inaugural address by climate minister Leonore Gewessler ©Aslan Kudrnofsky