Protecting nature and landscape management

The rare habitat type of dwarf bush heath will gradually be driven out by trees if no landscape management features are introduced (photo: Helmut Schlumprecht).
In the "Sattelgrund" Green Belt area, stocks of spruce were removed to create connected grassland areas that are extensively grazed (photo: Stefan Beyer).
At the Muschwitz in Franconia, a natural riverside grove lining of alder, willows and ash is encouraged by the removal of spruce (photo: Stefan Beyer).

In the densely wooded region of the Thuringian Forest, the Thuringian Slate Mountains and the Franconian Forest, the Green Belt is threatened in only a few areas by an intensification in agricultural usage. In many places, however, the propagation of species diversity is threatened, because pioneer trees are growing in current open land sites, especially birch and spruces. This heavily restricts not only how the Green Belt is perceived, but also leads to an acute threat to rare plant and animal species. Thus, the existence of dwarf shrub heaths is threatened, for example, in which the woodlark lives. 

To preserve the diversity of species, and make the Green Belt into an experience for tourists, landscape management schemes are being implemented along the Franconian-Thuringian border. Nature conservationists are working closely together here with forestry experts, nature parks and tourism associations.

After a detailed survey of the plant and animal species in the respective area, specific landscape management schemes are implemented. These include, among other things:

Until the fall of the Iron Curtain in autumn 1989, GDR soldiers cleared the border areas of scrub at irregular intervals so that they had a better view of the surrounding terrain. In this way, varying stages of non-forested land were formed, such as heaths, fallow grassland and semi-open bushy areas.

  • The preservation or restoration of mountain pastures and wet meadows through mowing or extensive grazing

  • The restructurisation of spruce forests along streams into semi-natural alder-ash grove linings

  • The preservation or restoration of dwarf shrub heaths and rock vegetation

Since autumn 2007, such landscape management schemes are being implemented on those plots of land transferred from the Federal Republic to the Free State of Thuringia, and in addition on private land made available by their respective owners free of charge, and on land purchased by nature conservation associations.

The grass cuttings from landscape management should be directly recycled on farms if possible, or sold as mountain meadow hay. In a number of sections in the model region, grazing with cattle, sheep or goats has proved to be very successful. "Meadow meat raised in a natural environment" is already marketed in quite a few butchers, hotels and restaurants in the region.

In order to save the dwarf-shrub heaths, an increased use of wood for energy requirements is planned - through woodchips or firewood, apart from grazing. The aim is to create an extensive mosaic of young or scrubby heath areas and pioneer forests. After clearing, heath areas should again be created.