Vienna, Austria

Vienna, Austria

Case Study by: Mike Eklund

Vienna, Austria is a city that is well known for its beauty and elegance, as well as for being one of the most livable cities on the planet.  There are many factors that have resulted in Vienna’s high quality of life, but one of the most important factors happens to be that more than 51% of Vienna’s total land area is green space, making it a perfect example for an urban case study for the Nature Needs Half vision.  Statistically, there are approximately 120 square meters of green space for every resident of Vienna, with this number growing steadily with the addition of new avenue trees and projects to green up courtyards and facades.  The responsibilities are spread across many municipal departments, and include environmental protection, energy planning, canalization, water and waste management, and forestry and agriculture.

© Biosphärenpark Wienerwald

Vienna is situated on the edge of the Vienna Woods (Wienerwald), which is situated on the foothills of the Alps and contains a biosphere reserve designated in 2005 by UNESCO that covers an area of 1350km2 (333,592 acres).  The area is home to roughly 2,000 species of plants and 150 species of birds as well as a whole host of other endangered species.  One example of an endangered species that has thrived in the Wienerwald is the Ural Owl, which was reintroduced into the forest in 2008.  In 2011, just three years after its reintroduction the Ural Owl began to reproduce in the Wienerwald for the first time in over 50 years.  Within the greater Wienerwald there are a total of 15 nature reserves and 4 national parks in addition to the fields, meadows, pastures, and vineyards that make up the landscape.

Ural Owl © M. Graf

To the east of Vienna lies the Danube River, which is one of the longest and most important rivers in Central and Eastern Europe.  The Lobau, or “water forest”, lies directly to the east of the city center and covers over 2,300 hectares (5683.42 acres) and covers nearly one third of the Donau-Auen National Park.  The area is one of the largest remaining wetlands in Central Europe, and is home to more than 800 species of plants, 30 species of mammals, 100 brooding bird species, 8 reptile species, 13 amphibian species, and 60 fish species.


Danube Wetlands ©

Another important green space that defines Vienna is The Prater, which is a large park situated in the middle of the city that has been ranked among the world’s best parks.  The park covers a total area of 6 million square meters (1482.63 acres), and is home to many lawns, wooded areas and water areas that allow for a variety of activities.  Many of the city’s other parks were once palaces that belonged to the Habsburg Monarchy such as the Schönbrunn Palace and the Belvedere Palace.  These parks are completely open to the public and account for much of the green space within the city.  Both palaces are designated by UNESCO as world heritage sites, and contain many gardens with a wide variety of flora and fauna.  For example, the Alpine Garden at the Belvedere Palace contains over 4,000 species of Alpine plant species while the Botanical Garden (also on the grounds of the Belvedere Palace) contains over 11,500 species of plants from six continents.

Schönbrunn Palace © Mike Eklund

Belvedere Palace © Mike Eklund

Vienna is a shining example of a city that is modern and vibrant, yet is so closely tied to the nature that surrounds it.  By allotting 51% of its total land area to preserving green space, Vienna is a perfect example of how a city can implement the idea of Nature Needs Half into the fabric of daily life for its residents.  The vast amount of green space available to its residents, combined with its excellent public transit and standard of life has earned Vienna the title of being one of the most livable and green cities on the planet.

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