University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna (BOKU) - Research portal

Logo BOKU Resarch Portal

Selected Publication:

Scheidl, C; Heiser, M; Vospernik, S; Lauss, E; Perzl, F; Kofler, A; Kleemayr, K; Bettella, F; Lingua, E; Garbarino, M; Skudnik, M; Trappmann, D; Berger, F.
(2020): Assessing the protective role of alpine forests against rockfall at regional scale
EUR J FOREST RES. 2020; 139(6): 969-980. FullText FullText_BOKU

Worldwide, mountain forests represent a significant factor in reducing rockfall risk over long periods of time on large potential disposition areas. While the economic value of technical protection measures against rockfall can be clearly determined and their benefits indicated, there is no general consensus on the quantification of the protective effect of forests. Experience shows that wherever there is forest, the implementation of technical measures to reduce risk of rockfall might often be dispensable or cheaper, and large deforestations (e.g. after windthrows, forest fires, clear-cuts) often show an increased incidence of rockfall events. This study focussed on how the protective effect of a forest against rockfall can be quantified on an alpine transregional scale. We therefore estimated the runout length, in terms of the angle of reach, of 700 individual rockfall trajectories from 39 release areas from Austria, Germany, Italy and Slovenia. All recorded rockfall events passed through forests which were classified either as coppice forests or, according to the CORINE classification of land cover, as mixed, coniferous or broadleaved dominated high forest stands. For each individual rockfall trajectory, we measured the forest structural parameters stem number, basal area, top height, ratio of shrub to high forest and share of coniferous trees. To quantify the protective effect of forests on rockfall, a hazard reduction factor is introduced, defined as the ratio between an expected angle of reach without forest and the back-calculated forest-influenced angles of reach. The results show that forests significantly reduce the runout length of rockfall. The highest reduction was observed for mixed high forest stands, while the lowest hazard reduction was observed for high forest stands dominated either by coniferous or broadleaved tree species. This implies that as soon as one tree species dominates, the risk reduction factor becomes lower. Coppice forests showed the lowest variability in hazard reduction. Hazard reduction due to forests increases, on average, by 7% for an increase in the stem number by 100 stems per hectare. The proposed concept allows a global view of the effectiveness of protective forests against rockfall processes and thus enable to value forest ecosystem services for future transregional assessments on a European level. Based on our results, general cost-benefit considerations of nature-based solutions against rockfall, such as protective forests as well as first-order evaluations of rockfall hazard reduction effects of silvicultural measures within the different forest types, can be supported.
Authors BOKU Wien:
Heiser Micha
Scheidl Christian
Vospernik Sonja
BOKU Gendermonitor:

Find related publications in this database (Keywords)
Protection forests
European Alps
Reliability of forest protective effects on rockfall hazard

© BOKU Wien Imprint