Southeast Austria feeling the effects of climate change

By Rebecca Musgrave

Temperatures are rising at a rate three times higher than the rest of the world in Southeast Styria. This change in climate may well be responsible for the driest November on record this year.

The UN climate change conference began yesterday (Mon) in Durban, South Africa, prior to which current climate figures and statistics were released. The information revealed that drought and flooding would continue to increase over the next 10 years. According to research from the Wegener Centre for Climate and Global Change at the Karl-Franzens University in Graz, Styria is no exception to the pattern and its feeling of the effects of the drought.

“The influence from global warming in the Mediterranean reaches all the way to the Alpine regions – it affects Austria and eastern Styria particularly badly. We are already seeing a clear trend of decreasing precipitation by a figure of about 10 per cent,” said Gottfried Kirchengast from the university.

According to Kirchengast, the southeast region of Styria has been particularly badly affected due to the high percentage of land used for agriculture, industry and business. Grasslands have been converted to overworked farmland and drainage basins have been built on. In order to fight against greenhouse gases, the best thing this region could do is plant woodland as opposed to using it for monoculture, argues Kirchengast.

Valentin Krenn from the association “Naturwald” is also pushing for reforestation. “We must encourage much more mixed woodland because it is more efficient and can deal with different climate conditions better. We can plant deciduous trees but natural rejuvenation of forest is better. This doesn’t really happen currently however because of wild game and especially high levels of deer,” he explained.

Research from Kirchengast suggests that many areas in Austria are not used appropriately or efficiently considering the current climate but discussions continue as how to best protect the countryside and more importantly how to prevent further changes in this climate altogether.