Prügelsteg, © Horst Dolak

Species and habitats


In comparison with all the other ecosystems worldwide peat bogs store the largest amount of carbon. For example, one hectare of peat bog area stores 10 times as much CO2 as the same area of woodland. Thus the importance of peat bogs for the global climate and its change is immense. In the Heidenreichstein peat bog there one finds the following types of habitat:

  • Damaged raised bog (high moor)
  • Transitional and quaking bog
  • Scots pine-birch-peatland forest

The conservation of peat bog habitat, apart from climate protection, is the basis for the preservation of various animal and plant species and the first priority. Peat bogs are normally characterized by a lack of a large variety of animal and plant species but relatively few but highly adapted specialists.
Below only a few important specimens will be mentioned.

Animal species:

Northern white-faced darter: This dragonfly can be found in peat bogs and drying-up zones of moor lakes. The relatively small species is characterized by coloured spots on the abdomen, blue with males and yellow with females. Both on the front and the hind wing respectively there is a dark red mark on males and a black one on females. During the mating season the female lays her eggs in a tittering movement on floating sphagnum mosses, under guard of the male. This species is listed as highly endangered.

Moor frog: With a little luck you may witness a rare spectacle in the dammed drains and in the Winkelauer lake area in early spring: The moor frog males – only around 7 cm in size – show an intensive blue colour during the spawning season to impress their “ladies“, but only for a short period of time. During the non-breeding season moor frogs are commonly mistaken for grass frogs, in spite of their distinctly pointed snouts. Another reliable distinguishing mark between the two species is their mating call. Moor frogs are under threat of destruction of their habitat (drainage of bogs, drying up of water bodies) and therefore protected in Austria.

Common spadefoot toad: The German name of this toad (= garlic toad) traces back to an excretion for the protection against enemies, although in most cases the toad simply blows up or crouches. It is also able to utter a fright call very similar to a human baby. The ventral side of the common spadefoot is white, the upper side varies strongly with range, sex and time of the year. An unmistakable distinctive feature is the form of the pupil – similar to a cat’s eye – and the metatarsal tubercle, which is clearly marked with this species. It serves the animal as a digging spade. The main spawning season is between the end of March and mid-May. There may be second period in midsummer, stimulated by heavy rainfall. The tadpoles are typically very large and can reach a total length of 15 cm! No wonder they move like fish.

Plant species:

Common sundew: The small, and at first glance difficult to spot, common sundew covers its demand of nitrogen by trapping insects. On the round leaves of the plant there are long-handled glandular hairs with sticky dew-like drops at their ends. This is aromatic, viscous trapping mucus decoyed insects stick to. Once caught, the animal is held by the tentacle-like extensions. With the help of excreted juice the animal is digested and the nutrients are absorbed by the leaves. Formerly the sundew was an officinal plant against coughing, today it is severely protected because of habitat destruction.

Wild rosemary: A special shrub occuring mainly in lighter areas of moorland forest is wild rosemary. Roughly 1 metre in height, with very lathy lanceolate leaves, it attracts attention especially during bloom from May to July because of its white umbels. In Heidenreichsteiner Moor it can be spotted even from the footpath. Apart from the blossoms, especially its intense smell is a distinctive attribute. Wild rosemary is a relict of the last ice-age. Having its main area of distribution in northern regions it is only rarely found here. Therefore the species is listed on the Red List of endangered plants in many countries. In the past the poisonous plant was used as a brewery additive because of its intoxicating effect.

Various peat moss species: Peat mosses (sphagnum) grow fast and count among the most important peat-formers in raised bogs. Peat moss cushions act like large sponges as the mosses can store twentyfold of their dry weight in their leaves with the help of special cells. After precipitation they have the ability to raise the water level more than 20 cm within 48 hours. In addition, these plants emit hydrogren ions in exchange for mineral nutriments, resulting in habitat acidification which only a few other specialists among the plants can handle – a perfect protection against vegetational competition. Sometimes brown spore capsules can be found at the top of specific moss plants dusting ripe spores.