Sunday set: Wienerwald

The lungs of a city …

All mountain ranges have to end somewhere, and for the Alps, the eastern terminus is the Wienerwald, a chain of rolling, low-slung hills on the outskirts of Vienna that drop down to the Danube Basin along a tectonic escarpment marked by a series of hot- and cold-water springs. It’s a geological and biological transition zone, where the rather moist and cool climate of northwestern Europe gives way to the drier regime of the Pannonian Basin to the southeast, including the Hungarian Puszta.

The Wienerwald is a favorite recreation area for Vienna residents, with hundreds of kilometers of walking and cycling trails, and also serves as a green lung for the Danube metropolis. Regional and city planners are intent on maintaining green corridors from the forest to the urban area, allowing cool breezes to penetrate concrete-lined alleys and boulevards as the cool air sinks off the hills in the evenings. Without the nearby forest, the city would experience many more uncomfortably hot days.

Since 2005, the Wienerwald has also been designated as a UNESCO biosphere preserve, with efforts to balance sustainable development with resource protection. A few core zones of the mixed forest are being managed as a near-urban wilderness, where natural forest processes are allowed to prevail in hopes of restoring at least a few patches of old-growth forest in the long run. The lower slopes are dominated by majestic beech and oak stands, with dense stands of black pines on the summits and ridge lines. Check out more Summit Voice photo essays here, and visit our online gallery at FineArt America for high quality landscape and nature prints.

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