Protection forest

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Protective forest in the steep slopes above Adelboden
Almost destroyed protective forest

As a protection forest mainly is generally mountain forest above villages, roads and railways designated in mountain areas, the valley inhabitants protection against falling rocks , landslides and avalanches provides education. Protective forest is not only important for the immediate vicinity, however, as the forest in the mountain area prevents flooding and flooding in the lowlands.

In forest law , protective forests also include forests on steep slopes outside of mountain areas (road protection forest, erosion protection forest), on unstable locations (e.g. drifting sand) or on bodies of water (bank protection). In addition to the direct protection of the soil on which they stand, protective forests also have protective functions against surrounding settlements (e.g. noise protection forest), bodies of water (groundwater protection and water retention, i.e. the avoidance of flood peaks) or cultivated plants (e.g. protects forests above from vineyards, these from running cold air).

In addition to these various types of permanent protection forest, there are also so-called temporary protection forests . This concerns certain forest stands which are upstream of other stands in the main wind direction. They protect the neighboring forest from storm damage and must therefore not simply be felled.

Protected forest is to be distinguished from protection forest , which in turn enjoys special protection, e.g. B. Forest communities protected by nature conservation law .


The ideal protective forest (against avalanches and falling rocks) is a loose mixed forest with trees of different ages that grow in clusters (groups of trees with trees of different ages). Individual tree species have different advantages and disadvantages in protection forests. For example, spruce trees grow quickly and are initially less sensitive to falling rocks, on the other hand they have shallow roots, which makes them susceptible to storm damage and red rot quickly develops after damage to the trunk , which weakens the tree. Silver firs have deep roots and are less susceptible to storms, but in the youth phase they are at risk of being bitten when there are high wild populations. Sycamore maple even has its roots in scree slopes that move, but is more sensitive to severe frost than conifers.

Protective forest is by far the most cost-effective protection against avalanches: Even in the extreme avalanche winter of 1999 there was no avalanche start in a protected forest area in Switzerland . The forest prevents the formation of an even layer of snow as the snow is first held back and then falls in packets from the branches to the ground.

  • The cost of maintaining an existing protective forest for 100 years is less than 200,000 euros per hectare
  • If the protective forest is lost due to a storm , for example , natural regeneration , reforestation and, if necessary, avalanche barriers must replace the protective effect. Also, game damage by deer browsing and peeling, grazing and improper management can make a restoration of protection forest necessary. The resulting costs for avalanche and sliding snow barriers and subsequent reforestation can amount to up to 600,000 euros per hectare.
  • The construction and maintenance of avalanche barriers to replace a protective forest cost around 2 million euros per hectare (calculated over 100 years).


In the Swiss Alps, forests were banned as early as the High Middle Ages because of their protective function against avalanches or rockfalls (withdrawn from general use). The oldest letters of protection come from the cantons of Schwyz and Uri. In the 15th century, the Bannwald was widespread as a protective forest in the mountain area, but the same expression was also used in the Central Plateau, but there as an instrument for regulating use.

In the 18th and especially in the first half of the 19th century, forests were cut down to produce wood and the land was then used for agriculture. As a result, the forest area decreased sharply and the bed load increased, which together with climatic influences led to numerous floods. In some areas, formerly fertile land has become swampy areas where malaria has become endemic. The Lint plain between Lake Walen and Lake Zurich and the Bernese Seeland were particularly hard hit , but the cities on the Aare and Rhine also suffered from frequent floods.

The connection between floods, bed load and deforestation was seen early on. In 1840, Jeremias Gotthelf railed against the deforestation of the Emmental Forest, which led to ever stronger floods. However, the forests were under the sovereignty of the cantons. The Swiss Forest Association, founded in 1843, not only campaigned for the preservation of the forests, but also demanded that the Confederation be committed to it. The Federal Council initiated the "Report to the high Swiss Federal Council on the investigation of Swiss high mountain forests" by forest professor Elias Landolt , published in 1862 . In 1874 the mountain forests were placed under federal supervision, and in 1876 the “Federal Act on the Supreme Supervision of the Federal Forest Police in the High Mountains” came into force, advocating sustainable forest management. It did not use the term `` Bannwald '', but `` Schutzwald ''.


Protective forest rehabilitation area with three-legged trestles above Hinterstein , district of Oberallgäu

In Bavaria, the protective forest is defined in Article 10 of the Bavarian Forest Act (BayWaldG). A distinction is made there between permanent and temporary protective forests. The temporary protective forest is forest that protects neighboring forest from storm damage. The permanent protective forest is forest in the high and ridge areas of the Alps and low mountain ranges, forest that protects its own location from karstification, erosion and humus shrinkage and forest that protects against natural hazards such as avalanches, rock falls, rock falls, landslides, floods, floods, drifts or similar hazards protects or preserves the river banks.

There are around 147,000 hectares of protective forest in the Bavarian Alps.

In the Middle Ages , the protective forest in the Alpine region experienced its first adverse effects from humans. The manufacture of iron and glass required large quantities of wood to fire the kilns. In addition, were used for the production of salt brine lines and firewood needed for the boiler land. This wood was first felled near settlements. From the 15th century there was a significant increase in population in the Alpine region. Forest was cleared for new settlements and to gain pastureland. In the 19th century, the mountain forest in the Bavarian Alpine region was already severely decimated. The picture was marked by extensive deforestation. Environmental influences such as storms and avalanches continued to affect the weakened forest. Floods, mudslides and avalanches claimed more and more lives and also caused major property damage and the destruction of agricultural areas. Hunting also played an important role . Until the introduction of the court hunting grounds at the beginning of the 19th century, there was a stable biological balance . Afterwards, wolves , lynxes and bears were exterminated as part of the sporty hunt. As a result, the numbers of red deer and chamois increased uncontrollably. Due to the increasing game browsing , many of the trees that were young at the time were severely damaged. The situation for the protective forest only improved somewhat with the revolution of 1848, when hunting laws were relaxed and poaching increased. State supervision of hunting was later tightened again. The wild population increased again and continued to penetrate into inaccessible high areas - with fatal consequences for the local forest. The 20th century was marked by a quadrupling of the population density and a decisive structural change . Traffic routes were expanded, the rapidly increasing industrialization caused further damage through the pollutant emissions and mass tourism aggravated the situation further. To this day, the natural regeneration of the protective forest is severely restricted.


In Austria, forest reserve a special form of forests with special treatment under Section B of the Forest Act 1975. The law distinguishes Location protection forest according to § 21, Section 1 of the Forest Act. , Of the protection of soil ( sands - or flight ground floors, the karst -prone or highly erosion-prone sites, rocky, shallow subtle or abrupt layers abrutschungs prone slopes, the combat zone of the forest) and object-protecting forests that explicitly human, human settlements or facilities or cultivated soil protection (§ 21 para. 2 forest Act). The latter can be put under a ban due to economic or other public interests and are then banned forest within the meaning of §§ 27 ff. Forest Act . In addition, the Austrian law also knows the term forest with a special habitat ( biotope protection forest , § 32a Forest Act ).

Thinning and harvesting measures are not generally prohibited in the protective forest. Rather, they are useful and necessary in many places in dense stands in order to improve their protective function. The aim of protective forest thinning can be, for example, to favor underrepresented stabilizing mixed tree species such as the silver fir and to free them from troubling neighboring spruces.

See also

Web links

Commons : protected forest  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Schuler: Bannwald. In: Historical Lexicon of Switzerland . March 20, 2015 , accessed June 12, 2019 .
  2. Federal Office for Environmental Protection: Environmental protection began in the forest , magazine Umwelt 2001 ( Memento from 10 August 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  3. Bavarian Forest Act (BayWaldG): Article 10
  4. Numbers and facts: Bergwald. (PDF) Bund Naturschutz in Bayern e. V., archived from the original on August 31, 2014 ; accessed on September 9, 2016 .