The Wilderness Dürrenstein is situated in the southwestern Lower Austria, along the Lower Austrian – Styrian border, in the vicinity of the 1.878 m high Dürrenstein mountain. The average annual temperature is 3,9° C, with 2.300 mm precipitation yearly.
The forests of the area are composed of the same vegetation as is found in the mountains of the northern Limestone Alps. Most of it consists of beech, fir and spruce trees. The large variation in locations creates a division of these forests into areas of dense, moist soil regions abundant in herbs, and grassier, sparser hillside forests with arid soil. Along the very humid and steep inclines there are ravine and slope forests, composed of hardwood trees, such as great maple, ash and elm. Natural spruce forests only cover small portions of the area, such as landslide material or the narrow belt located by the topmost timber line. Due to the snowy and humid climate, beech forests often extend up to the timber line. In the undergrowth of these forests high-growing herbs such as alpine adenostyles (Adenostylus glabra), monkshood (Aconitum sp.), monk’s-rhubarb (Rumex alpinus) and mountain ragwort (Senecio subalpinus) can be found.
In higher regions, where dense forests can no longer thrive, mountain pines (pinus mugo) make up the so called krummholz zone, which gives way to the alpine grasslands and rocky areas around the Dürrenstein’s summit. Characteristic species of this area are mountain-avens (Dryas octopetala), silvery yarrow (Achillea clavennae), alpine calamind (Acinos alpines) and alpine primrose (Primula auricular).
Within the forests rock faces and taulus deposits are treeless. Large areas have been cleared for alpine pastures. These pastures and meadow are an enriching component of the landscape and will continue to be preserved. The deadwood that is abundant in natural forests, and lacking in commercial timberland, provides an ideal environment for numerous fungi species. Some of these species only occur in this region of Austria, and were first documented here. In total, over 600 species of fungi can be found in the Wilderness Dürrenstein. The fauna of the Wilderness Dürrenstein includes most of the species native to areas north of the Alps. These animals include common species such as red deer, chamois and alpine hares as well as brown bears and the occasional lynx. Other typical species are the alpine newt, the alpine salamander, the European adder and the white-backed woodpecker, a bird rarely found in the rest of Austria. The forests are characterized by the large deadwood animal population, including the Rosalia longicorn, a beetle whose protection has been prioritized by the European Union. All four types of grouses native to Austria (wood-, black- and hazel grouse and ptarmigan) live in the nature reserve, an exceptional occurrence. Even golden eagles can be seen flying overhead.