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biotop auersthal

About pond ‘Biotop Auersthal’: From a reservoir for flood control to a hotspot of urban wildlife

geographical location of the pond in the wine-making district in austria

The pond ‘Biotop’ (48°22’50.9''N, 16°37’27.3''E) belongs to the wine-making village Auersthal. It is located at 160 m above sea level in the Weinviertel district in Lower Austria, about 30 km distant from the centre of the capital Vienna. The pond comprises two water basins. The main basin has an area of 2400 m2 and a maximum depth of about 1 m. The second basin is much shallower and smaller, of 350 m2 only. The two basins are connected. The pond is embedded in a small woodland.

the new face of the pond in the recent decade

Pond-BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2013:
The smaller water basin of the pond that is mainly covered by water plants.
Even the pond was in the past and is still at present a man-made water basin, but it's character has changed with time. The pond was originally used as a reservoir for flood control (Büchler 2003 R and Büchler 2005 R) and hence was a temporary water basin only, to retain and to store the water after heavy rain protecting the farmland and the housing area in the village Auersthal. At that time, the basin was embedded in riparian softwood-land. The wood was mainly built by stands of Populus indicating the relic of an earlier flood plain with a streambed. This former stream, named 'Mühlbach', was flowing through the wood ‘Hochleithenwald’ and was then entering the area of meadows, farmland and vineyards of Auersthal. The pond habitat has much changed in the past decade, when volunteers of Auersthal initiated the project named 'Biotop Auersthal' to design this pond area. The pond was very close to an indoor swimming pool that was opened in 1971 (Europa-Bad) and the settlement Badsiedlung/Europabadsiedlung’ that was founded at that the same time. With a twinkle in their eyes, local people sometimes even call this settlement ‘Gimpel-Siedlung’ acknowledging the many woodland birds as ‘Gimpel’ (Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs) that are regularly visiting this housing area edging the ‘Biotop’ and that is not far from further woodland in Auersthal ('Gemeindewald'). Meanwhile, the indoor swimming pool has been removed but the settlement has even grown in this area of the wine-making village.

BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2000:
The main water basin of the pond ’Biotop Auersthal’ shown before the project started in 2001.
BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2001:
Volunteers of the charity association ’Dorf-Erneuerungs-Verein’ were involved in the planning and implementation of the project ‘Biotop Auersthal’.

BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2011:
Volunteers are twice a year maintaining the trails going through the wood around the pond ‘Biotop Auersthal’. Some of them were involved in the project right from the start, contributed their expertise and carried out the project work.
BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2003/2004:
Short wooden bridge over the watercourse connecting both water basins.

BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2010:
Trail in the wood ’Biotop Auersthal’: About 3500 trees and shrubs were planted in this artificial pond-wood area ten years ago, in 2001.
BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPlants found in 'Biotop Auersthal', 2009-2015:
From left to right, line 1 to 4: Cornelian Dogwood - flowers, unripe and ripe fruits (Cornus mas); Elder - flowers and fruits ( Sambucus nigra); European Bladdernut - fruit and bough (Staphylea pinnata); Common Sea-Buckthorn (Hippophae rhamnoides); Dog-rose - flowers and fruits rosehips (Rosa canina); Willow (Salix spec); Guelder-Rose (Viburnum opulus); Wild strawberry /(Fragaria vesca ); Violet (Viola spec.); Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara; White water lily (Nymphaea alba); Common reed (Phragmites australis); Great Willow Herb (Epilobium hirsutum) and Bulrush (Typha latifolia); Yellow Iris (Iris pseudacorus) and Hard Rush (Juncus inflexus); Lesser Celandine (Ranunculus ficaria).

Project ‘Biotop Auersthal’ was in part financially supported by a local government initiative through the foundation ‘Dorf-Erneuerungs-Verein’ (DEV, Büchler 2003 R and Büchler 2005 R). The aim of this charity association can be described as to ‘upgrade the life in villages – keep good old traditions alive in the modern life style’. It was the successor of the charity association ‘Verschönerungs-Verein’, a common volunteer initiative in Austria simply saying ‘make our villages and towns look more beautiful’. The aim of the project ‘Biotop Auersthal’ was to re-design the pond as an area of higher recreational value. The natural rural-riparian woodland was replaced by planting a large variety of trees, bushes and shrubs, which are common in the Pannonian plain and were available by local market gardens (Büchler 2003 R).
As described in a more detail in the section about the birds seen in the ‘Biotop Auersthal’ (in prep.), the large variety of berries and other fruits from shrubs, bushes and trees (e.g. wild apple tree) certainly attracted the singing birds (see photos about shrubs, bushes and birds in the gallery and the summary photo about „plants found in ‘Biotop Auersthal’“ in the text; see also Büchler 2003 R and DEV 2016 R). According to the records by Kerschbaumer, an increasing diversity of birds has been recently observed in the biotop (see the list of bird species by Kerschbaumer in the section about the birds, in prep., see also Büchler 2005 R). Recent activities of DEV other than the project 'Biotop Auersthal' are illustrated on the website 'Leben im Dorf / Dorferneuerungsverein Auersthal'.

About 50-100 years ago, before the pit of the later pond was used for flood control, mud was taken from the site of the main basin to make bricks. These bricks were called ‘Kot-Ziegel’ (mud bricks, the local word for mud is ‘Kot’) and were of low quality only when compared with the commonly produced bricks made from loam-clay material in this region. During the period from 1850 to 1950, local brick manufacturing was quite common in this region and for example, the village Auersthal had up to five small brick yards at that time. The surface-clay bricks were processed by forming and drying, and those of high quality were even further treated by firing. Individual labels were marked on the surface of the bricks during manufacturing and indicate until these days from what local brick yard in or nearby Auersthal the bricks of an old house originate. The plentiful brick labels give a further signature for the many loam-clay digging sites (brick yards) in this area at that earlier time, even if only a few of these sites ended up as a pond today as described here for the ‘Biotop Auersthal’ (see further loam pit pond of  the brickyard Schönkirchen in the section below, in prep.; see also gravel pit lake/gravel pit pond 'Kiessee' on the website about shallow urban lakes Gr Mueggelsee S and Naturally designed Wildlife and swimming ponds S) .

BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2010:
Main basin of the biotop seen along the longitudinal extension.
BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2013:
View as the left photo but three years later with more dense stands of water plants. In the foreground in the pond are mainly stands of background bulrush (Typha latifolia) seen.

The water in the main basin is quite well retained due to the fine grain size of further brick-yard-material on the bottom of the basin. The volunteers monitor and maintain a certain water level here and thus at least the main basin can be now characterized as permanent stagnant water. The pit of the small basin, however, looks different. It was mainly the result of the removal of the humus layer used as soil for fields and gardening. The ground layer of the small basin might be of rather coarse material, and hence it dries out from time to time, in particular, in years of low precipitation (see photo 4 in the gallery on top). The maintenance of a certain water level in the pond today becomes even more difficult as the ground water level in this region is now much lower than it was decades ago and perhaps might decrease further. The management of such ponds in view of a shallow aquatic ecosystem will be discussed later (see section about algae and aquatic plants common in ‘Biotop’ Auersthal, in prep.).

BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2009:
Enjoying the frozen pond in winter time.
BiotopAuersthal-TeubnerPond 'Biotop' in Auersthal, 2013:
Some popular banks are suitable to let the dogs swim without disturbing the wild life in the pond.

‘Biotop Auersthal’ is now a popular place for the local people. You can meet here people of all ages. People are having a chat while walking through the wood or coming to have a rest, doing exercises, biking or letting their dogs go swimming. Some young kids are coming with their fishing rods! Whatever people might expect to enjoy most here: The ‘Biotop’ is certainly a place for getting in touch with nature. This web page about ‘Biotop Auersthal’ is still in preparation. It will illustrate some colourful wildlife in the pond and in the wood. In addition, some aquatic microorganisms and water plants of the ‘Biotop’ Auersthal will be illustrated, and their indication of the nutrient state discussed. Animals as amphibians and birds will be, in particular, described inhabiting this artificial pond. And finally, some examples of various types of man-made ponds in this wine-making region of Auersthal will be provided and their great value as aquatic habitat for wildlife discussed. The Heritage Museum in the wine-making village Grossengersdorf (NÖ Museum für Dorfkultur in Großengersdorf) provides insights in traditional everyday life and also wine culture in this wine-making region of Lower Austria. Großengersdorf is located in close proximity to the wine village Auersthal.

cited References on this site about biotop Auersthal

DEV 2016. Unser Biotop in Auersthal - Pflanzen, Vögel und weitere Tiere. In German about our pond in Auersthal: Plants, birds and other animals. Folder . Look-Inside  

Harding, J. 2006. Austria. In: The Oxford Companion to Wine. 49-54. 3rd edition. Oxford University Press, New York.

Büchler, I. 2005. Das Biotop – ein Paradies für Vögel. ‘s Dorfblattl - Mitteilungen des Auersthaler Dorferneuerungsvereins „Leben im Dorf“, 2: page 3. Look-Inside  

Büchler, I. 2003. Projekt Biotop. ‘s Dorfblattl - Mitteilungen des Auersthaler Dorferneuerungsvereins „Leben im Dorf“, 1: pages 4-5. Look-Inside  

Teubner, K. 2001. Algengemeinschaften in Seen. 83-112. In: Ökologie und Schutz von Seen. UTB Facultas, Wien. Look-Inside

Wetzel, R. 2001. Shallow lakes and ponds. 625–630. In: Limnology: Lake and River Ecosystems. 3rd edition. Academic Press, San Diego, London.  FurtherLink

Moser, L. 1952. Weinbau einmal anders: Ein Weinbaubuch für den fortgeschrittenen Weinbauer. 3rd edition. Self-publishing, Rohrendorf bei Krems an der Donau.