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Forest Day: This is the tree of the year 2024

Forest Day: This is the tree of the year 2024
42 percent of Upper Austria’s area is covered with forest.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD
Oak Leonding
An oak tree in Leonding.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD
Squirrels like to collect acorns.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD

Since 1971, March 21st has stood for International Day of Forests. The United Nations created it to point out the numerous functions of the forest: In addition to its role as an ecosystem, the forest is a place of recreation, a source of raw materials and an important economic factor.

“After tourism, forestry is the second largest earner of foreign currency in Austria,” says Georg Starhemberg, chairman of proHolz Upper Austria. Around 70,000 Upper Austrians receive their income from a local forestry and timber industry. Wood and paper are among the most important export goods.

  • See here: The most beautiful forest photos from OÖN readers

There is definitely enough raw material available: no more is taken from (Upper) Austrian forests than what grows back. According to proHolz, enough wood is produced every five minutes to build a single-family home. In the past 50 years, the Upper Austrian forest has grown by around 42,000 hectares – an area four times the size of Linz.

Forests are also indispensable for climate protection: trees absorb harmful CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow. One cubic meter of wood stores the carbon from one ton of CO2. In order for local forests to survive climate changes, careful planning is necessary. Suitable seeds and seedlings as well as the right location will be crucial in the future, because heat and drought weaken many trees and make them more susceptible to pests such as bark beetles.

The oak: climate-friendly and versatile

The oak tree can be happy about the title “Tree of the Year” this year. It is often used in furniture construction and in parquet wood production. Oak barrels are preferred for storing whiskey and wine. The oak is one of the most important deciduous trees in the northern hemisphere; in Austria the English and sessile oaks are most common. The trees grow between 35 and 40 meters tall and can live up to 800 years. In individual cases an oak tree can even last longer than 1000 years.

Oak Leonding
An oak tree in Leonding.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD

The deep-rooted species, which survives long periods of drought and storms well and is therefore one of the climate-friendly species, is not very common in Austrian forests. They only make up 2.4 percent of the deciduous trees in Austria. How valuable the wood is was shown during the hardwood timber submission in January 2024 in St. Florian: prices of more than 1,800 euros were achieved per cubic meter. The most expensive oak trunk was sold for around 7,200 euros.

Squirrels like to collect acorns.
Image: VOLKER WEIHBOLD

The oak is an important habitat for animals: of all tree species in Austria, the most insect species live here. Acorns are an important source of carbohydrates for wild animals and are often stored as supplies for the winter. The fruits are inedible for humans when raw; when roasted, the acorns can be used to make a caffeine-free coffee alternative.

  • Read here: The most famous native tree species

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