Protection of species
ÖBB-Infrastruktur is always taking numerous measures to conserve Austria’s natural resources: Embankment greening with regional seeds, planting of old fruit trees, river restoration, construction of green bridges for wild animals, installation of protective caps for birds on power lines, creation of spacious, ecological compensation areas and much more besides. But often even small pockets of nature are enough to offer bees, butterflies, beetles or birds a place to live. So the courage to take action pays off for nature – we just have to do it.
Biological diversity, also known as biodiversity, encompasses the diversity of species of living organisms, their gene pool and habitats. It is one of our most important foundations of life and has an impact on many areas such as nutrition, raw material supply, health and security against natural disasters. ÖBB-Infrastruktur has long been committed to the protection of rare plants and animals. Railway embankments, biotopes created in the course of new construction projects, etc. are important habitats and areas of retreat for many species. Here bluethroat, mockingbird, beaver and the like find a home and food.
The areas we own alongside the railway are important habitats and retreat areas for many animals and plants. We manage 2,700 hectares of protective forest, look after railway embankments and rocky surfaces and implement measures to conserve the biodiversity.
Grazing sheep and goats
We also use our four-legged friends to help us maintain green areas. Sheep and goats love grazing in our railway embankments. This helps against lignification and has also introduced non-native plants (so-called neophytes) to the areas. This has the potential to damage railway systems or clog drainage systems. The positive effect is evident in various grazing projects, some of which have been backed up by scientific research. Unwanted plants are contained to the embankment and a closed, diverse grass and herb cover is created.
Translation of transcript for reading
Koralm Railway Grazing Project
Film footage, protagonists tell a story
A farm with a goat shed is shown. There are 14 animals living in this stable.
Speaker 1: I am Seppi the hunter and come from the municipality of Magdalensberg. I am an organic farmer and, in cooperation with Maschinenring and ÖBB, I am involved in a grazing project south of Klagenfurt. We currently graze an area of about 6,000 square metres with 14 animals. Half of the herd is mixed. The herd consists of goats and sheep. The knotweed has become a huge problem for ÖBB. With the sheep and goats, we have found a very good alternative to reduce the knotweed without having to use chemicals.
Speaker 2: The problem with this plant is that when you mow it with the mower, fragments are created and these fragments can sprout again and this leads to the fact that in a relatively short time the slope is overgrown. This creates a monoculture. In addition, it clogs the irrigation systems and damages the structures. In 2014, we started to consider ways of controlling this plant naturally. After some deliberations and various possible options, we finally decided on grazing with goats and sheep. From the beginning, we tried to work with scientific support. The idea is to have botanists and vegetation ecologists determine whether and how the vegetation reacts to the grazing.
Speaker 1: The cooperation with ÖBB and Maschinenring is also an excellent thing for my animals, because we represent a super benefit for the general public and the animals.
Speaker 2: In the past it was customary to keep animals on railway embankments, because there was no problem with overgrown areas. We are trying to revive this old tradition once again.
Natural hazard management
When it comes to railway security requirements, we consider our environment particularly carefully. In a mountain region like Austria with 5,000 mountain torrents and 3,700 known avalanche points, railway lines pass through many areas affected by natural hazards. Vital, stable forest stands, avalanche barriers and torrent controls protect our rail infrastructure from floods, mud flows and avalanches.