While most people picture majestic, glacier-clad crags when they think of the Alps, the great European mountain range has a softer side at its far eastern edge, where the mountains gradually taper off toward the Danube Valley, just west of Vienna. The temperate climate in these foothills is perfect for apple and pear trees, growing so prolifically that there’s and entire district dedicated to the production of tasty cider. And in the famed Wienerwald (Vienna Woods), thick silver-barked beech trees dominate the forests. Just a bit farther south and west, the first high peaks of the Alps rise up to the summit of the Ötscher, a landmark peak surrounded by deeply carved valleys where crystal-clear aquamarine streams flow through protected landscapes like the Ötscher-Tormäuer Nature Park. In the last few weeks, the soft greens of spring burst forth in abundance in these landscapes near Austria’s first city, and we’re looking forward to more explorations this summer.
At the end of a long winter, it’s fun to daydream about hot summer days by the sea in the pleasing coastal towns of the Mediterranean. We especially enjoyed Varazze last July. The Italian harbor town isn’t particularly well known internationally, but it’s a favored getaway for residents of bustling Genoa and for yachties looking for a calmer alternative to Nice or Cannes. It is also, apparently, a surf hotspot in the winter season, as you can see in this YouTube video. We also saw some fine waves at Frejus during a summer tempest, and the paddler in the photo was enjoying the shorebreak. Check out more Summit Voice travel, nature and landscape photography in our Sunday Set archive, and visit our online gallery to buy prints and more — a great way to support our independent environmental journalism.
Study projects 55 percent increase in acidity in next 50 years
There’s no stopping ocean acidification without stopping CO2 emissions, and that’s bad news for many marine species, including Dungeness crabs, according to new new research published in the journal Global Change Biology.
Tiny shell-forming organisms like pteropods and copepods are vulnerable to acidification, but will likely experience only a slight overall decline because they are prolific enough to offset much of the impact, the study found. But those impacts will cascade through ocean ecosystems to affect larger animals like crabs, that will suffer as their food sources decline. Dungeness crab fisheries are valued at about $220 million annually, and may face a strong downturn over the next 50 years. Continue reading “Ocean acidification to hit key fisheries”→
For the first time in many years I spent early spring in the lowlands and as the plantscapes around me came to life, I marveled at the variety of deciduous trees, from old-growth beech forests to city parks and riverside orchards. The seasonal transition proceeds at a completely different pace and with a dizzying burst of efflorescence. This set of spring pics was taken in and around Vienna, Austria. More Summit Voice photography posts here, and visit our online gallery for fine art landscape and nature images.
Well density seen as key factor in decline of birds in Wyoming
Limiting the density of new oil and gas drilling rigs in Wyoming may not be enough to stem the decline of greater sage-grouse, according to scientists tracking populations of the imperiled bird.
Berween 1984 and 2008, populations declined by 2.5 percent annually, and the drop is clearly linked with oil and gas development, the new study from the USGS and Colorado State University found. The researchers used annual counts of males at breeding sites for their estimates, comparing those tallies to the the density of oil and gas wells and the area of disturbance associated with these wells. Continue reading “Sage grouse and drilling just don’t mix”→
A beech forest in Thayatal National Park, along the border of Austria and Czechia.
Mountain view in Gesäuse National Park, in the central Austrian Alps.
Along the Grossglocknerstrasse, in the Hohe Tauern National Park.
The Neusiedler Lake, in eastern Austria.
Donau-Auen National Park, along the Danube River near Vienna.
During the past few months I’ve been able to visit several of Austria’s national parks, including the Donau Auen, a spectacular bosque river landscape that starts practically in downtown Vienna and extends all the way to the border with Slovakia. The Donau Auen is one of the biggest remaining natural river landscapes in central Europe and stands as testament to the power of grassroots activism. When plans for a giant hydropower plant were revealed in the early 1980s, students, teachers, artists and others banded together to occupy the area, eventually winning the public relations battle and leading to preservation of the area.
While Austria is best known for its mountain landscapes, the Neusiedler See is located on the eastern border of Austria, where the mountains tilt away to the great steppes of the northernmost Balkan region. The other two parks in shown in this set are in the heart of Austria’s Alps, featuring classic mountain landscapes. Most Austrian parks are just a few decades old and were inspired by national parks in the U.S. Indeed, the concept of public places as showcases of ecological diversity and preservation is probably one of America’s best exports.