International Day for Biological Diversity

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Changed on: 22.05.2017

The 22nd May has been declared “International Day of Biological Diversity” since 2001. Biodiversity describes both the variety of all living beings on our planet and also the diversity within species themselves.

This diversity can be seen in the many ecosystems that have been formed naturally or created by mankind: a riparian forest or woodland (e.g. mangrove) has its own, special flora and fauna, as does a spruce forest planted by man. The diversity of species can also be seen within an ecosystem: there are up to 25 different varieties of trees, bushes and shrubs and 50 different grasses and herb-like  plants in the Eichen Hainbuchen Wald ecosystem, for instance. Finally, there are numerous varieties among the individual species – just think of the many species of cereals and vegetables.

More information

The 22nd May has been declared “International Day of Biological Diversity” since 2001. Biodiversity describes both the variety of all living beings on our planet and also the diversity within species themselves.

This diversity can be seen in the many ecosystems that have been formed naturally or created by mankind: a riparian forest or woodland (e.g. mangrove) has its own, special flora and fauna, as does a spruce forest planted by man. The diversity of species can also be seen within an ecosystem: there are up to 25 different varieties of trees, bushes and shrubs and 50 different grasses and herb-like  plants in the Eichen Hainbuchen Wald ecosystem, for instance. Finally, there are numerous varieties among the individual species – just think of the many species of cereals and vegetables.

More information

AGES Gene Bank

The AGES gene bank in Linz holds seeds of over 5,000 agriculturally cultivated plants. Many of these species are not cultivated anymore – however, they contain genetic information that might be important in the future, as they are more resistant to various diseases or have a better chance of surviving draughts.
Most of these seeds are stored at a temperature of -18 °C. Thus, they can germinate for decades. New seeds are grown and tested for their survival and germinating capabilities on test plots before they are frozen again every year. Austria’s oldest known oat variety is also stored at the gene bank: the seeds were found during demolition work at an old building, where they had been used as insulation material in 1809. The seeds actually did germinate – as “Schlägler oat” – and are now part of the genetic diversity of Austrian food plants.

Gene bank for agricultural crops, medicinal and aromatic plants

Plant of the month” provides a quick overview of the plant diversity in the gene bank: each month, AGES describes one plant variety in more detail – from medicinal and aromatic plants and important food plants to endangered species.

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Millet
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Bean
Schmetterlingsblüte der Ackerbohne
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Mustard
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Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla)

Varieties

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Winter rape seed: bee pasture and contributor to the diversity in varieties on cultivated land.
Landschaftsaufnahme mit gelben Rapsfeld im Hintergrund und grünem Weizenfeld im Vordergund.
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Malting barley
Ähren einer Braugerste
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Sunflower flower
Sonnenblumenblüte
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Sugarbeet

Only two or three rape seed varieties were cultivated in Austria up to 1975.  The rape seed oil gained from these varieties was not suitable for human consumption. At present, 38 rape seed varieties are licensed for cultivation and the fields with the flowering plants have become a typical sight in Austria’s landscape in springtime.
http://www.ages.at/themen/landwirtschaft/sorte/biodiversitaet-bei-winterkoernerraps

Additionally, farmers are now able to choose from three to four times as many varieties of wheat, rye and corn, whichever species suits the prevailing soil and weather conditions best. AGES has been testing between 320 and 420 new varieties of agricultural cultivated crops on their country-specific cultural value -- i.e. whether they are suitable for cultivation in Austria and can be processed into food – every year for 20 years. The varieties best suited for production and the relevant region are included in the “Austrian variety list”.

Over 20 so-called conservation varieties of cereal and more than 100 varieties of vegetables have been included in the variety list, as well as specially grown varieties for cultivation under specific conditions. This makes various older varieties available for home gardening, in particular peppers, chilies, salad, tomatoes and runner beans.
http://www.ages.at/themen/landwirtschaft/sorte/arten-und-sortenvielfalt-einst-und-jetzt

Farmers can use the AGES-Sortenfinder (AGES variety finder) online to search for varieties that meet their specifications. The variety finder is based on regional yield data and provides information on winter wheat, winter barley, corn maize, potatoes, sugar beet and winter rape seed.

The cultivation of old Austrian varieties, the survival of which would otherwise be endangered, is state-funded in Austria. Forty-seven cereal, corn and millet varieties, eight buckwheat and legumes varieties, five potato and turnip varieties, seven oil and fibre plant varieties and eight vegetable varieties are registered in the Variety list for rare agriculturally cultivated varieties.

Diversity at AGES

Austria is also involved in the facilitated exchange of plant genetic resources for nutrition and agriculture, as part of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture. This agreement regulates the exchange of samples for cultivation and research on an international level. AGES is the contact in Austria and was, therefore, represented at this year’s Special Event held by the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO on Biological Diversity Day in Geneva on 19th May.

AGES offers further-educational and advanced training seminars, workshops, information events and company tours on Educational plans of rural development (LE 14-20) including ÖPUL. Its event series “Umweltgerechte und biodiversitätsfördernde Bewirtschaftung in Theorie und Praxis” (Environmentally-friendly and biodiversity promoting cultivation in theory and practice) focuses on activities aiding biodiversity. The main focus is on successful farming by planning to cultivate the right variety and seed (SLK, organic). Demonstrations of organic farming and integrated, biodiversity promoting cultivation include the AGES agricultural online tools for SLK (rare agriculturally cultivated plants), organic seed database, the AGES variety finder and the AGRAR Commander.

AGES has also undertaken responsibility for biological diversity at an organisation level: the idea behind this year’s latest project “Biodiversitätsnahe Bewirtschaftung auf dem Areal der AGES-Betriebsstätte Wien Spargelfeld” (biodiversity-near cultivation on the premises of AGES Vienna Spargelfeld) is to cultivate public spaces and company premises – preferably in urban areas – and turn them into biodiversity spaces and cultivate them long-term. The areas do not require fertiliser, pesticides or irrigation and are used as demonstration and science projects.

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The purple mullein is considered an endangered species in Austria.
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