The Green Belt – Backbone of Habitat Diversity in Germany
The outstanding ecological value of the 1,393 km long inner-German Green Belt lies in the connection of 149 different habitat types, home for more than 1,200 red-listed plants and animal species. It connects habitats that, in today’s intensively used cultural landscape, are otherwise cut off from one another. It crosses 17 natural regions of Germany and winds its way along the path of the former inner German border. Today this exceptional lifeline creates linkages to more distant habitats like a backbone. The so-called “central Green Belt” covers an area of 17,712 ha (177 km²) and is about 50 to 200 metres wide. 64% of the area are endangered habitat types on the German Red List, 68% are protected. By adding protected areas within a 10-kilometre corridor, this ecological network extends to more than 2,200 km².
Due to pressure from industrial agriculture valuable habitats are converted into intensively managed grassland or farmland. 87% of the central Green Belt’s total area and 80% of its length are still near- natural, but 13% of its total area has been destroyed by agriculture, road construction and commercial development. A central goal of Friends of the Earth Germany is to restore former connections and to create new cross-linkages. In 2012, Friends of the Earth Germany launched a project called “Closing Gaps in the Green Belt” and has been purchasing large areas of land, which is being converted into valuable habitats.
Up to November 2016 we have purchased 100 land parcels with an overall size of 91 hectares (128 football fields!) in the project’s model regions. Friends of the Earth Germany cooperate closely with farmers and land users. For the purchased areas new lease agreements were concluded which regulate the nature-related use of the areas: This comprises e. g. the converting of arable land into extensively used grassland, less frequent mowing and abandonment of fertilization. Furthermore, we advise farmers in nature-related use of the areas and monitors the implementation of measures and the development of habitats.
The nature-related use of the area is crucial for the survival of numerous endangered species. One example is the Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), flagship species of Germany’s Green Belt. In the model region “Arendsee-Salzwedel” (Saxony-Anhalt) a survey of clutches on an area of 1,100 hectares verified that breeding success doubled after the first year measures had been introduced. To give another example: In ditch systems of two project regions critically endangered dragonfly species were found – the Mercury Bluet (Coenagrion mercuriale) and the Ornate Bluet (C. ornatum). The occurrence now will be surveyed and monitored. The management of the ditches is going to be adapted to the dragonfly species’ needs by cooperating with the region’s water management associations.
Activities supported by the Bösche Foundation
Whinchats breeds on the ground. If meadows are mowed too early in the year (before mid July), the offspring is killed by the machines in the nests which are invisible for the farmers.
With the help of the Wolfgang Bösche Foundation, our conversation experts can extend the „Whinchat protection zone“ by including an area and thereby bridging another gap of the Green Belt. In the following year projects introducing measurements for winchat-friendly farming methods are going to be implemented. We would like to thank the Wolfgang Bösche Foundation for its generous support!
More information under www.bund.de