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Austria - Agralp: Development of agricultural structures in the Alps

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Utilisation of Land

While the utilised agricultural area (UAA) in the Alpine Convention area did not decline as strongly as the farms, it still slumped by around 8.8%, or 504,807 ha, between 1980 (5,752,633 ha) and 2000 (5,247,826 ha). 

At the same time, the Austrian Convention area lost a mere 5.5% of its UAA. The withdrawn parts are primarily either marginal productivity areas, which faced difficult conditions of production, or arable land and permanent crop areas, which are not likely to be profitable. 

Due to the fact that the UAA developed in a quite heterogeneous manner, no clear connection to geographical or morphological conditions, which could be a deciding factor for an increase or decline, can be made (see map). The decline in the UAA coincides only in part with the development of farms. This is the case in the region between the Brenner and the Niedere Tauern, for instance, where farm structures remained absolutely – and the proportion of utilised agricultural areas relatively – stable. A similar situation prevails in Vorarlberg in the Montafon valley and in the Kleinwalsertal valley. 

The eastern fringes of the Alps mainly registered a decline in the agricultural area. However, increases partly occurred around the Wechsel and in the Greater Vienna area. In the southern parts of Austria, particularly in the Graz and Klagenfurt basins, the proportion of farmland similarly declined.

Development of utilized agricultural areas 1980-2000

Compared to 1980, 700 km² of arable land und just under 600 km² of grassland ceased to exist. All in all, a utilised agricultural area of 1,231 km², roughly three times the size of Lake Constance or twice the size of the Dead Sea, disappeared.

Developme​​​nt of the most important cultivation types in the Austrian Convention Area 1980-2000 (km²) 

In comparison with other countries' proportion of the Convention area, the Austrian part of the Alpine Convention has the largest share in both UAA and grassland. However, even in absolute terms Austria accounts for the largest share in UAA and grassland in the entire Alpine Convention area. With a mere 3.3%, Austria's share in the total permanent crop area of the Alps was only marginal in 2000. What is interesting, though, is that Austria has 1,954 km² (30.1%) of arable land and thus, after France and Italy, the third-largest share in the entire Convention area.

Comparison of cultivation types in the Convention areas, 2000 ​ ​ ​
  Total Convention 
 Austrian Convention 
 2 / 1 
 UAA (km²) 52,478 17,344 33.1
 Permanent grassland 
 38,36515,298 39.9 
 Arable land (km²) 6,481 1,954 30.1
 Permanent crop
 area (km²)
 2,008 67 3.3

The Austrian mountain region accounts for 50% of Austria's entire utilised agricultural area, almost 90% of which consists of grassland. Thus, almost 80% of the entire grassland in Austria is located in the Alpine Convention area. On the other hand, the proportion of arable land (14%) and permanent crop areas (9.5%) in the Convention area is relatively small compared to Austria as a whole.

Significance of different cultivation types in Austria versus the  Austrian Convetion area, 2000

Austrian Convention area
 UAA (km²)
 33,899 17,344 51.2
 Permanent grassland (km²)
 19,168 15,298 79.8
 Arable land (km²)
 13,953 1,954 14.0
 Permanent crop area (km²)
 702 67 9.5

The diagram below illustrates the share of the most important cultivation types in the UAA of the Austrian Convention area.

Share of cultivation types in the UAA 
of the Austrian Convention area

Below you find relevant maps available for download in PDF format: 

Permanent grassland/UAA (%): 1980 (689 KB); 1990 (683 KB); 2000 (665 KB)
Arable land/UAA (%): 1980 (724 KB); 1990 (714 KB); 2000 (728 KB)
Permanent crop/UAA (%): 1980 (751 KB); 1990 (717 KB);2000 (747 KB)
Development of the UAA: 1980-2000 (690 KB); 1990-2000 (692 KB)

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