Duration: 02/2017 - 09/2021
The NATURA 2000 site Oranienbaumer Heide is located in the Eastern part of Saxony-Anhalt, Germany. From 1945 until 1989, the site was used for military training activities by Soviet troops, thus maintaining a large-scale open landscape, nutrient-poor soil conditions and species richness through a combination of heterogeneously distributed disturbances from military training activities and the exclusion of intensive agriculture or forestry.
Political changes have led to the cessation of military use for nearly 2 decades, from 1989 to 2008. As a consequence of the abandonment of military training activities, woody species, mainly Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) and silver birch (Betula pendula) encroached rapidly. In addition, the spread of competitive grasses such as bushgrass (Calamagrostis epigejos), accompanied by a high litter accumulation, the predominance of degenerate Calluna vulgaris stands - the key species of dry heaths - as well as the lack of bare soil patches, are main degradation processes. Moreover, the invasive alien tree species black cherry (Prunus serotina) occured in some parts of the area.
Habitats of community interest, such as “European dry heaths” (referred to as dry heaths; habitat code 4030), “Xeric sand calcareous grasslands” (referred to as dry sandy grasslands; habitat code 6120*) as well as mosaics of these habitat types (habitat code 4030/6120*) and inland dune habitats (habitat code 2310 and 2330) are in the focus of current nature conservation activities. Today, the Oranienbaumer Heide is one of the most habitat and species rich areas in Saxony-Anhalt. However, at the beginning of the restoration process, the conservation status of habitat types of community interest were listed as unfavourable-bad.
The project is pursuing an important goal set out in the biodiversity strategy of the federal state of Saxony-Anhalt, according to which utilisation or maintanance concepts for heathlands and dry grasslands are to be developed and implemented.
Results from previous projects (Project Archive) demonstrate the great success of the restoration and management measures for the habitat types of community interest and their species communities that occurring in the Oranienbaumer Heide. Nevertheless, to improve the conservation status of the habitat types, additional management measures has to be develeoped and implemented. Moreover, the coordinative and scientific monitoring of all measures is urgently needed. The Anhalt University of Applied Sciences is responsible for the coordination of the entire project. In addition, all management measures are designed as well as continuously evaluated and scientifically monitored by the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.
The current work focusses on:
- Large-scale rejuvenation of degenerate heaths with high coverages of grasses or woody species
- Evaluation of the effectiveness of mechanical maintanance measures against the regrowth of birch and poplar
- Development of strategies to reduce the occurence of the black cherry (Prunus serotina)
- Evaluation of all management measures related to the conservation status of the habitat types of community interest and the occurrence of valuable breeding bird species of the open and semi-open landscape
- Collection and analysis of the spatial utilization of the grazing animals by using telemetry data (GPS and activity data)
- Knowledge transfer into the nationwide practice and public relations
In order to maintain biodiversity, a low-intensity, year-round grazing system with heck cattle and konik horse was established by the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences and the Primigenius gGmbH of the NABU RV Köthen in 2008. Today, 150 up to 180 cattle and horses graze on approximately 800 ha (stocking rate approximately 0.15 livestock units ha-1).
In order to restore the habitat types that were heavily degraded at the beginning of the project, trees and shrubs were extensively cleared on 555 ha in cooperation with the Federal Forestry Company "Mittelelbe". The strength of the shrub and tree clearance was oriented on the one hand to the improvement of the vegetation structure of the habitat types, on the other hand to the habitat requirements of faunistic target species such as e.g. Woodlark and nightjar. At the same time, additional management measures were done to promote the rejuvenation of degenerate heather stands (one-time mowing and a one-time mulching) on a total of 80 ha in cooperation with the Federal Forestry Company "Mittelelbe" and the farmer.
The year-round grazing system as well as additional management measures are continuously evaluated by the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences, and optimized together with the farmer. The semi-open pasture landscape Oranienbaumer Heide is one of the largest low-intensity, year-round pastures in Germany and was honored as the pasture landscape of the year in 2017.
Monitoring is a central component of all restoration and management measures. For this purpose, Anhalt University of Applied Sciences set up a network of more than 160 permanent plots befor implementation of management measures in 2008 (Fig. 1). On these plots, data to the state of habitats and species are collected. For example, the conservation status of habitat types of community interest regarding vegetation structure, impairments and species inventory is evaluated periodically on the 1 ha macroplots.
Indicators for evaluating the management success include, for example, the proportion of ruderal indicators as well as the proportion of characteristic plant species. For example, effects of management measures (shrub an tree clearance, grazing, one-time heather mowing) can be evaluated by comparing the initial state at the beginning of the project with the current state (before / after comparison). In addition, a comparison between grazed and ungrazed (fenced) plots allows the evaluation of the explicit effect of year-round grazing. Moreover, the current state of habitats is evaluated with the nature conservation objectives that are formulated for the area (target/actual- comparison).
Furthermore, two heck cattle and konik horses each are equipped with a GPS collar to study the feeding and space-utilisation behavior of the grazing animals. Collected data as well as evaluations give us information about the development of species and habitats. In case of possible undesirable developments or too slow restoration success, the management will be optimised and, if necessary, corrected.
- Studies on the vegetation development at the level of plant species communities (vegetation surveys according to Londo)
- Studies on the occurrence of breeding bird species
- Rejuvenation of heather in a large-scale heath experiment
- Investigations on mechanical pasture care measures to reduce re-sprouting capacity of cut birch and aspen
- Animal observations on the feeding behavior of the grazing animals
- Studies on browsing effects of grazing animals on the invasive black cherry (Prunus serotina)
- Soil analyses for the evaluation of grazing-induced nutrient inputs
Improvement of the habitat structure
Under the influence of year-round grazing, a more diversely structured vegetation developed over time, caused by the selective feeding preferences of the animal breeds. The proportion of bare soil for in particular the germination and establishment of low-competitive and light-demanding species significatly increased (Fig. 1). Patches of bare soil and grazing paths are characteristic for dry grasslands and heaths as a result of the trampling and wallowing of the grazers. Within the grazing paths, Botrychium matricariifolium occurs increasingly - an extremely rare species that relies on open, nutrient-poor sites.
In addition, the high accumulated litter layer as well as typical ruderal indicators, such as Calamagrostis epigejos, decreased significantly (Fig. 2). Furthermore, year-round low-inetnsity grazing successfully prevents the further spread of Calamagrostis epigejos within nutrient-poor sandy grassland and heathland communities. Thus, grazed Calamagrostis stands developed towards the target habitat type sandy grasslands.
The rejuvenation process of Calluna vulgaris runs slow. During the first study years, degenerate Calluna stands were largely neglected by the grazing animals due to the high proportion of woody biomass and thus lower fodder quality. Additional management measures, such as mowing, are suitable to facilitate the vegetative rejuvenation of Calluna, whereby the re-growth of young shoots subsequently improves the fodder quality of Calluna and thereby its attractiveness for grazing animals. In areas in which grazing was complemented by a one-time mowing regime, the high proportion of woody biomass was reduced. Consequently, grazing intensity was enhanced after the application of the one-time mowing, resulting in an increase in Calluna rejuvenation.
Increase in plant species richness
Year-round low-intensity grazing with cattle and horses led to a significant increase in total species number and species richness across and within vegetation types over time. After nine years of grazing, especially target species as well as low-nutrient indicators increased (Fig. 3).
These include characteristic species such as Peucedanum oreoselinum, Dianthus deltoides or Koelria macrantha as well as red list species such as Botrychium matricariifolium or Carex ericetorum. Target species as well as low-nutrient indicators significantly benifit from reduction of the grass and litter layer as well as the increase of the proportion of bare soil.
On ungrazed plots, no changes in total species number was found.
Increase in breeding bird species
Since the beginning of the project, a significant increase of target bird species of the open and semi-open landscape has been identified, such as nightjar, woodlark and stonechat (Fig. 4). Remarkably is the resettlement of hoopoe and wheatear in the study area.
These positive effects result of the management: development (semi-) open structures due to large-scale tree and shrub clearence, creation of a diverse herb layer with bare soil due to grazing, increase in arthropod diversity and quantity due to the drug-free manure of the grazing animals. The result is in a drastic contrast to the downward trend of breeding birds typical of agricultural areas since the 1980s (farmland bird indicator).
Large-scale rejuvenation of degenerate heather
In order to improve the conservation status of highly degraded heaths, an experiment with four different treatments was established to rejuvenate heather stands mixed with grasses and poplars in autumn 2017:
1. Mowing with the removal of the cutted material
2. Mowing without the removal of the cutted material
3. Mulching (near the surface, no soil injuries)
4. Control (without mechanical treatments)
The vegetative and generative rejuvenation of heather is in the focus of the investigation. All treatments are subjected to the year-round, low-intensity horse and cattle grazing. The most efficient method shall be implemented in mixed stands in the study area as well as on other heathlands.
First results will be available shortly.
Reduction of the non-native invasive species black cherry
The black cherry (Prunus serotina) is a tree native to North America, but one of the invasive neophytes in Germany. To prevent the further spread of this species by the grazing animals, all fruiting individuals on the pasture as well as on the fenced control plots were cleared before grazing started. Animal observations as well as investigations to the browsing effects of the grazers showed that, in particular, cattle effectively browse the re-shoots of the black cherries. Intensive browsing leads to a decrease in the ability of regeneration as well as to the death of entire individuals (about 80% within 9 years, Fig. 5). This mortality rate refers to single occurrences and occurrences in smaller groups (<0.5 ha) of one-time cleared black cherries. Therefor, management successfully reduces and prevents the further spreading of the black cherry and thus, maintained a high species richness on the grazed area.
In the ungrazed pioneer forests, however, additional management measures must be taken. For this purpose, an experiment to darken cut-off black cherry individuals by means of large-scale tarpaulins (10 m x 10 m) was established. However, it has proved to be unsuccessful. Although, no new shoots could develop directly below the tarpaulins, black cherry individuals in the peripheral areas of the tarpaulins were all the more vigorous and already returned to fructification within 2 years. For the suppression of large-scale black cherry occurrences in pioneer forests, this method is therefore not suitable. Therefore, new strategies are being developed currently in dealing with such stocks .
Management of woody regrowths
To preserve a good conservation status of the habitat types and the eligibility of the area, the regrowth capacity of birch and aspen has been investigated on permanent plots since autumn 2017. By means of the investigations, suitable aftercare intervals as well as the duration of that shall be determined. Following treatments are examined:
- Mulching (near the surface, no soil injuries), early cutting (July)
- Mulching (near the surface, no soil injuries), late cutting (September)
- Control (without mechanical treatments)
The data is currently being evaluated. First results will be available shortly.
If you would like to know more about the Oranienbaumer Heide and the scientific monitoring as well as the conducted management measures, you will find the most important information in our current information flyer (only available in German), which is available for download.
Furthermore, we regularly carry out field trips into the Oranienbaumer Heide, where you can explore and experience the fascinating area, the management successes as well as animal and plant species close up. The next excursion is planned for August 2019. You will find further information on this homepage in due course.
Information about the Oranienbaumer Heide are also published in the regional press. The results of our scientific research will be published in national and international journals (see publications).
In addition, as part of the transfer of knowledge into nationwide practice, other farmers in particular shall be motivated to implement low-intensity grazing practices. For this purpose, a workshop was held on May 7, 2018 in the Oranienbaumer Heide on the topic "Conservation and restoration of semi-open habitat types of community interest through large-scale, year-round grazing". About 50 participants, including agricultural holdings, landscape maintenance associations, conservation and farmers' associations, foundations, conservation and agricultural authorities, and companies, learned about the grazing project and exchange views on year-round, low-intensity grazing systems.
Exciting insights into, for example, the history and development of the area, current management practices, habitats and the exceptional fauna and flora can be found on our educational trail. Our best practice guide (as of 2013, only available in German), which contains information about the implementation, operation and scientific monitoring of semi-open pasture landscapes in former military training areas, is currently being updated.
Access to the semi-open pasture landscape Oranienbaumer Heide
Arrival by car
The heathland "Oranienbaumer Heide" is located between Dessau-Rosslau and Oranienbaum-Wörlitz. Coming from Dessau-Rosslau you can get there following the road B107 heading towards Oranienbaum-Wörlitz. You have to pass the traffic light crossing at the Dessora-Park (industrial area) and follow the B107 for further 400 m. Then you will have to turn right to reach a parking area (without liability), followed by a straight forest path. After parking you car you have to follow the forest path on foot or by bicycle for about 1 km. You will finally arrive at the northern boundary of the grazed open-landscape of the Oranienbaumer Heide (Figure 1: northern access, upper red point). Alternatively you can park your car at the railway station "Bahnhof Oranienbaum" and reach the pasture according to the map at the right.
Access by food or bicycle
Furthermore, the heathland can be reached on food or by bicycle from Jüdenberg or Möhlau following the bikeable walking path Jüdenberger Weg (Figure 1: eastern and southern access, red points).
Henning, K., Lorenz, A., von Oheimb, G., Härdtle, W. & Tischew, S. (2017): Year-round cattle and horse grazing supports the restoration of abandoned, dry sandy grassland and heathland communities by supressing Calamagrostis epigejos and enhancing species richness. Journal for Nature Conservation, 40, 120-130.
Henning, K., von Oheimb, G., Härdtle, W., Fichtner, A., & Tischew, S. (2017): The reproductive potential and importance of key management aspects for successful Calluna vulgaris rejuvenation on abandoned Continental heaths. Ecology and Evolution, 2017, 1-10. [pdf]
Lorenz, A., Bauschmann, G. & Reinhard, S. (2017): Oranienbaumer Heide ist Weidelandschaft des Jahres 2017. Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung, 49, 302-303. [pdf]
Lorenz, A., Seifert, R., Osteloh, S. & TISCHEW, S. (2016): Renaturierung großflächiger subkontinentaler Sand-Ökosysteme: Was kann extensive Beweidung mit Megaherbivoren leisten? Natur und Landschaft, 91, 73-82. [pdf]
Henning, K., von Oheimb, G. & Tischew, S. (2015): What restricts generative rejuvenation of Calluna vulgaris in continental, dry heathland ecosystems: seed production, germination ability or safe site conditions? Ecological Questions, 21, 25-28. [pdf]
Lorenz, A. & Tischew, S. (2015): Zwergstrauchheiden. In: M. Bunzel-Drüke, C. Böhm, G. Ellwanger, P. Finck, H. Grell, L. Hauswirth, A. Herrmann, E. Jedicke, R. Joest, G. Kämmer, M. Köhler, D. Kolligs, R. Krawczynski, A. Lorenz, R. Luick, S. Mann, H. Nickel, U. Raths, E. Reisinger, U. Riecken, H. Rößling, R. Sollmann, A. Ssymank, K. Thomsen, S. Tischew, H. Vierhaus, H.-G. Wagner & O. Zimball: Naturnahe Beweidung und NATURA 2000. Ganzjahresbeweidung im Management von Lebensraumtypen und Arten im europäischen Schutzgebietssystem NATURA 2000. Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Duderstadt. Gefördert durch: Thüringer Ministerium für Umwelt, Energie und Naturschutz (TMUEN), Bayerischer Naturschutzfonds, Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein, 74-79.
Lorenz, A. & Tischew, S. (2015): Trockene, kalkreiche Sandrasen. In: M. Bunzel-Drüke, C. Böhm, G. Ellwanger, P. Finck, H. Grell, L. Hauswirth, A. Herrmann, E. Jedicke, R. Joest, G. Kämmer, M. Köhler, D. Kolligs, R. Krawczynski, A. Lorenz, R. Luick, S. Mann, H. Nickel, U. Raths, E. Reisinger, U. Riecken, H. Rößling, R. Sollmann, A. Ssymank, K. Thomsen, S. Tischew, H. Vierhaus, H.-G. Wagner & O. Zimball: Naturnahe Beweidung und NATURA 2000. Ganzjahresbeweidung im Management von Lebensraumtypen und Arten im europäischen Schutzgebietssystem NATURA 2000. Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Duderstadt. Gefördert durch: Thüringer Ministerium für Umwelt, Energie und Naturschutz (TMUEN), Bayerischer Naturschutzfonds, Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein, 86-92.
Lorenz, A. & Tischew, S. (2015): Binnendünen. In: M. Bunzel-Drüke, C. Böhm, G. Ellwanger, P. Finck, H. Grell, L. Hauswirth, A. Herrmann, E. Jedicke, R. Joest, G. Kämmer, M. Köhler, D. Kolligs, R. Krawczynski, A. Lorenz, R. Luick, S. Mann, H. Nickel, U. Raths, E. Reisinger, U. Riecken, H. Rößling, R. Sollmann, A. Ssymank, K. Thomsen, S. Tischew, H. Vierhaus, H.-G. Wagner & O. Zimball: Naturnahe Beweidung und NATURA 2000. Ganzjahresbeweidung im Management von Lebensraumtypen und Arten im europäischen Schutzgebietssystem NATURA 2000. Heinz Sielmann Stiftung, Duderstadt. Gefördert durch: Thüringer Ministerium für Umwelt, Energie und Naturschutz (TMUEN), Bayerischer Naturschutzfonds, Stiftung Naturschutz Schleswig-Holstein, 61-65.
Seifert, R.,Lorenz, A., Osterloh, S., Henning, K. & Tischew, S. (2015): Free-range grazing by large herbivores in degraded large-scale dry sandy grassland-heathland ecosystems. Ecological Questions, 21, 87-89. [pdf]
Schonert, A. & Simon, B. (2014): Naturschutzfachliche Erfolgskontrolle von Managementmaßnahmen zum Erhalt und zur Entwicklung von FFH-Offenlandlebensraumtypen im NATURA 2000-Gebiet Mittlere Oranienbaumer Heide – Brutvögel. Berichte des Landesamtes für Umweltschutz Sachsen-Anhalt, 1, 39-48. [pdf]
Felinks, B., Tischew, S., Lorenz,Z A., Osterloh, S., Wenk, A., Poppe, P., Noack, J. & Krummhaar, B. (2013): Praxisleitfaden: Einrichtung, Betrieb und wissenschaftliche Begleitung von halboffenen Weidelandschaften auf ehemaligen militärischen Übungsflächen - mit Beispielen aus der Oranienbaumer Heide. Der Druck dieses Leitfadens wurde gefördert durch die Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt. 49 Seiten. [pdf]
Lorenz, A., Tischew, S., Osterloh, S. & Felinks, B. (2013): Konzept für maßnahmenbegleitende, naturschutzfachliche Erfolgskontrollen in großen Projektgebieten am Beispiel des Managements von FFH-Lebensraumtypen in der Oranienbaumer Heide. Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung, 45, 365-372. [pdf]
Felinks, B., Tischew, S., Lorenz, A., Osterloh, S., Krummhaar, B., Wenk, A., Poppe, P. & Noack, J. (2012): Management von FFH-Offenlandlebensraumtypen auf ehemaligen Truppenübungsplätzen. Etablierung einer extensiven Ganzjahresstandweide in der Oranienbaumer Heide. Naturschutz und Landschaftsplanung 44 (1): 14-23. [pdf]
John, H., Lorenz, A. & Osterloh, S. (2010): Die Farn- und Blütenpflanzen des ehemaligen Truppenübungsplatzes Oranienbaumer Heide. Florist. Mitt. Sachs.-Anh.,15, 17-54. [pdf]
Lorenz, A., Osterloh, S., Felinks, B. & Tischew, S. (2010): Extensive Beweidung zum Erhalt und zur Entwicklung von FFH-Offenlandlebensräumen auf ehemaligen Truppenübungsplätzen. In: Vössing A. (Hrsg.) Nationalpark-Jahrbuch der Nationalparkstiftung Unteres Odertal, 7, 68-76. [pdf]
Futher information about the semi-open pasture landscape "Oranienbaumer Heide" from previous projects ca be found here.
- supported by the German Federal Environmental Foundation (duration 05/2008-04/2011)
- supported by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development Sachsen-Anhalt (duration 05/2011-09/2013 and 10/2013-10/2015)
Site owner: DBU Naturerbe GmbH
Project partners: Primigenius – Köthener Naturschutz und Landschaftspflege gGmbH,
Cooperation partners: Biosphärenreservat "Mittelelbe", Bundesanstalt für Immobilienaufgaben, NABU RV Köthen