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Overhead power lines as habitat

In order to improve habitats around, below and on the power installations, APG works in close coordination with biologists, ornithologists, wildlife and aquatic ecologists, as well as environmental protection authorities and forest authorities. Ecologically beneficial measures preserve and nurture the flora and fauna along the transmission line routes. 

Biodiversity hotspot: Transmission line routes as a habitat

Power lines criss-cross Austria’s landscapes, passing through forests and over fields and meadows. While these are the backbone of a secure electricity supply, they also function as habitats for a rich variety of flora and fauna. APG promotes and protects the biodiversity of animals, plants and ecosystems through a wide variety of measures so that the route corridor becomes a valuable habitat. 

Austria's lifeblood: Sustainable habitat management

APG’s power grid transverses the whole of Austria, from low-lying valleys all the way to the Alpine heights. The power line routes may run through forests, meadows or fields depending on the region, climate, the natural landscape and human use. Expansion of the grid infrastructure always interferes in natural habitats to a certain degree. Yet, to keep intervention as minimal as possible, APG has carried out nature and species conservation projects for many years in all regions as part of a sustainable habitat management concept.  

Responsibility for nature and the environment

As a responsible user of the land, APG contributes to conserving and promoting Austria’s variety of species and habitats by carrying out targeted nature and species conservation measures. Individually coordinated maintenance measures adapted to the natural potential of the habitats along our transmission line routes are implemented depending on the requirements of the specific corridor environment. This has a positive impact on biodiversity, with the line routes becoming valuable habitats for plants and animals.

Win-win: occupational safety and maintenance measures

Trees and shrubs should not be allowed grow too close to power lines. Instead of completely removing the natural growth along the routes at regular intervals, APG replaces fast-growing types of trees and shrubs with slow-growing species, especially on routes running through forests. Likewise, special emphasis is placed on selecting tree species that will withstand climate change. In some areas, we also create species-rich meadows with hedges so that animals can access neighbouring forested areas. The edges of forests are designed in tiered and structurally diverse arrangement so as to create a fluid transition to the rest of the forest. 

Close collaboration with property owners and experts 

Constructive cooperation with property owners is a basic prerequisite for putting sustainable habitat management into practice. When implementing projects under its sustainable habitat management programme, APG collaborates with farmers and foresters from the region as well as with experts. 

The many faces of transmission line routes

As part of sustainable habitat management, APG implements species conservation projects, such as the projects to conserve the Great Bustard, the Saker Falcon, the Hoopoe and the Ural Owl. Projects for the protection of biotopes, which concentrate primarily on forest routes, are another area of focus. When correctly maintained, these are popular refuges for animals, as well as breeding and feeding grounds for animals such as birds and small mammals. They also provide valuable habitats where rare and endangered plant species can thrive. In regions having a high agricultural density, the spaces at the foot of the transmission towers serve as an important refuge for many plants and animals. 

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What is sustainable habitat management?

Environmental aspects  

The progressive loss of native animal and plant species as well as of valuable habitats for them is making it necessary to examine all possible areas of land use to determine their suitability and possibilities for conserving and promoting biodiversity, defined as the totality of genes, species and ecosystems of a region. Sustainable habitat management focuses on tapping the natural potential of the sites in question and provides opportunities for development in places that in the past had only been partially used or were not used at all. 

Management for nature conservation

Sustainable habitat management includes providing specific support for regional nature conservation projects. APG embraces such initiatives and seeks to integrate them into its sustainable habitat management programme wherever operational security allows. The habitats concerned include ecologically important biotopes whose existence will be nurtured or successively restored in consultation with the nature conservation authorities. 

Doing business in harmony with nature 

At APG, we give preference to environmentally friendly and, where possible, near-natural use of the areas surrounding the routes over purely cost-based management. Experience has shown that, over a longer period of time, incorporating ecological considerations also makes good business sense. Creating extensively managed, species-rich meadows that only need to be mowed once or twice a year can significantly reduce maintenance costs around lines, for instance. Installing species-rich gravel turf on the site of substations makes it possible for heavy equipment to access the area even in bad weather, allowing faults to be repaired without delay. 

The necessary basis for the measures to ensure a sustainable habitat management for APG’s entire transmission grid has been developed in cooperation with university research institutions (“care models”). 

Sustainable habitat management is based on the following guiding principles

1

Ensuring a secure supply of electricity is the top priority. Measures in the interest of sustainable habitat management do not impair occupational safety. However, APG always seeks to improve occupational safety by taking steps to achieve sustainable habitat management.

2

APG’s experts assist the landowners and stakeholders in an advisory capacity and promote awareness of the advantages of sustainable habitat management.

3

To keep the added value in the region, the measures are implemented wherever possible with local service providers (farmers and forest workers).

4

APG factors the natural and cultural situation of the region into its maintenance measures and is guided by the natural potential of the location and its surroundings.

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