Nature conservation

Nature conservation goals on DBU natural heritage sites

The areas managed on a long-term basis by the DBU’s natural heritage subsidiary are intended to contribute to the National Strategy for Biological Diversity and serve as refuges for rare species.

To this end, the DBU subsidiary is pursuing two nature conservation strategies that were developed with the participation of the respective federal states as well as the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in the form of 70 guiding principles for the key habitats of the natural heritage – forests, open land and wetlands:

Dynamic nature conservation

Forest and wetland areas should be restored to as near-natural a condition as possible so that they can then continue to develop naturally, undisturbed. These natural dynamics create valuable habitats, such as dead wood or ephemeral pools, on which many specialized, increasingly rare native species, such as beetles and amphibians, depend.

Preserving nature conservation

The open areas created by human use are to be preserved as refuges for many more endangered animal and plant species through permanent maintenance.

The combination of both forms of protection creates diverse and extremely species-rich natural areas that also have a special appeal as recreational areas.

Forests – letting nature take its course

Large areas of pure nature development will be created in the medium and long term in the extensive forest stands of the DBU natural heritage with an estimated 55,000 hectares.

“Let nature take its course” is the motto on these areas. In this way, the DBU subsidiary is making a significant contribution to the German strategy for the protection of biological diversity, which aims to achieve free natural development on at least five percent of the domestic forest area by 2020.

The “wilderness” that is created in the long term provides an undisturbed habitat for many animal and plant species worthy of protection. For example, the old and dead wood that is abundant in natural forests provides the habitat for many rare insects, fungi, mosses, and lichens that inhabit dead wood and the species that feed on them, such as woodpeckers and bats. In addition, wilderness can also meet man’s growing need for unspoiled nature in his homeland.

Consequently, the DBU subsidiary leaves the near-natural mixed deciduous forests and the old, sparse, over 100-year-old pine stands directly to free development.

In contrast, the currently predominant, species-poor coniferous stands must first be gradually converted into near-natural forests. This process can take several decades.

The aim is to promote native tree species and to increase structural diversity through different age classes and layers of trees. Both allow for higher biodiversity. To this end, alien tree species are gradually removed and the natural regeneration of native tree species is specifically promoted, in particular through adapted game management.

In order to further increase site diversity on site, it is also planned to maintain traditional forms of near-natural use such as coppice, middle and hute forest in small-scale forest areas.

Open land – protection through maintenance

Decades of military training operations have allowed valuable openland habitats for endangered animal and plant species to develop on DBU natural heritage sites.

In accordance with the directive for European protected areas, DBU Naturerbe GmbH will permanently conserve around 15,000 hectares of these valuable extreme sites on a large scale through extensive use or management.

Without these external interventions, habitats that are very rare in the Central European landscape would be lost.

Through different, spatially and temporally varying maintenance variants, for example grazing, mowing or – if the munitions situation permits – fire, diverse habitat mosaics for adapted species are to be created and preserved.

With grazing, hardy domestic or wild breeds such as heath sheep, goats, primitive wild horses, and Heck cattle prevent encroaching scrub, thereby creating open, nutrient-poor landscapes. These open land areas, for example heaths, dry grasslands and rough grasslands, are colonized by endangered species such as the woodlark, adder and rare butterflies and plants, for example the silver-spotted blue butterfly and the sand strawflower.

In contrast, the controlled wildfire maintenance option allows regeneration of older heath plants and recolonization with fast-growing plant species, so-called pioneers.

In order to further increase site diversity, some sub-areas of open land will remain temporarily untouched by maintenance activities in the interest of low disturbance.

Wetlands – Restore balance

Wetlands and water bodies on DBU natural heritage sites should be restored to their most pristine condition and preserved. Near-natural wetlands provide habitat for specialized species, such as beavers, otters, frogs, and rare orchids, which are now in short supply in our latitudes.

Restoration of the natural water balance is often required to meet the ecological needs of these endangered species. This means, for example, that formerly drained moorlands or floodplains are rewetted.

In addition to their role as valuable habitats, intact peatlands also represent important carbon dioxide sinks and are therefore also important for climate protection.

To further increase site diversity and habitat quality, the structures and quality of water bodies should also be improved. This also helps to protect groundwater and thus our drinking water.

Wildlife Management

Forest stands in the DBU natural heritage that are far removed from nature are gradually converted into mixed forests rich in structure before they can be left to develop naturally. For this purpose, the density of game must be regulated in such a way that natural regeneration of native deciduous tree species is possible even without forest protection measures such as fencing.

As a matter of principle, hunting is only carried out on DBU natural heritage sites in order to prevent intensive browsing by cloven-hoofed game (deer, roe deer and wild boar) and to achieve natural forest development up to new “wilderness”. In addition, legal requirements for wildlife management are met, for example, for the immediate prevention of danger in the event of animal epidemics. It is also intended to prevent damage to adjacent agricultural land, which is predominantly caused by wild boar.

For each DBU natural heritage site, a specific hunting concept adapted to local conditions is developed for this purpose. The plan is to minimize disruptive effects and take optimum account of animal welfare.

During the mating, breeding and resting seasons from February 1 to August 31, hunting is generally not allowed, but hunting is temporarily intensified. In the medium term, the aim is to make the game less shy and more diurnal again, in order to encourage observations by nature lovers.

In order to approximate the natural regulatory mechanisms of wildlife populations, hunting is generally conducted regardless of the sex of the wildlife. Lead-free ammunition is always preferable, taking into account accident prevention, in order to avoid contamination of surfaces and game meat.