Optimizing Ecosystem Services in Viniculture facing Climate Change (LIFE VinEcoS)

  • Motivation of the project

    Motivation of the project

    During the last decade, the frequency of heavy rainfalls alternating with extensive dry periods increased considerably. Within the course of global warming, we expect a further rise of extreme weather events, leading to higher erosion risks in the vineyards as well as to elevated water stress of the vine. Within the project, we want to develop climate-adapted management measures in vineyards, contributing to the protection and enhancement of biological diversity and increasing important ecosystem services in vineyards, focussing on the following main questions:

    1. Which management regime increases biodiversity in vineyards?

    2. How does this influence ecosystem services in vineyards?

    3. How can we combine ecological and economical aspects to optimize ecosytem services?

    The vine-growing area Saale-Unstrut in the very South of Germans federal state Saxony-Anhalt covers 770 ha of cultural landscape characterized by vineyards, steep terraces, old dry stonewalls, orchards, and calcareous grasslands. In the Saale resp. Unstrut river valleys a 'heat island effect' creates a mild microclimate with 1,600 hours of sunshine per year. With an annual precipitation of 500 mm, the Saale-Unstrut region is to be considered as one of the driest areas in Germany.Three vineyards of the Landesweingut Kloster Pforta are used as demonstration sites within the project.

  • Work package 1: Testing new production methods and cultivation techniques

    Work package 1: Testing new production methods and cultivation techniques

    On selected vineyards of the responsible partner, climate-adapted production methods and cultivation techniques will be tested, e.g. non-pruning or minimal-pruning systems. This sort of vine training system is rarely used in Germany and not known in the Saale-Unstrut region until now. This cultivation technique allows the vine plant to grow naturally as liana, contrary to the normally used spur-pruned technique. Positive effects of the new technique is a vitalization of the grapes, a loosening of the grape structure that should decrease the disease tendency and therefore could reduce pesticide input. Higher foliation will increase root development, leading most probably to higher drought resistance of the vine plant. An additional advantage of this training system is the reduction of labor costs.

    Responsible: Landesweingut Kloster Pforta

  • Work package 2: Development of multifunctional seed mixtures containing regional wild plants for erosion protection and biodiversity enhancement

    Work package 2: Development of multifunctional seed mixtures containing regional wild plants for erosion protection and biodiversity enhancement

    Against the background of the expected climate change, we are aiming to compile seed mixtures that develop into vegetation types with high water retention, good erosion protection and high humification. The resulting vegetation should provide nectar and pollen sources for butterflies and wild bees. The use of local ecotypes of wild plants guarantee an optimal adaptation to regional site conditions, and ensure suitable feeding habitats for native animal groups. In selecting undemanding, low growing calcareous dry grassland species, we are trying to minimize the water stress for the vine plants.

    On the study site Pfortenser Köppelberg vineyard (near Schulpforta), we installed a large-scale trial in complete block design with three variants (sowing of two wild plant mixtures and one commercial mixture between vine rows) in four repetitions. To study the effect of ensuing vegetation types, water stress of the vine plants, grape quality and quantity are measured. In addition, different parameters with regard to vegetation and erosion potential, as well as abundance of selected animal groups (butterflies, wild bees, birds) are monitored regularly on all sowing variants in the trial vineyard and on an adjacent control vineyard sown with a commercial seed mixture.

    Responsible: Anhalt University of Applied Sciences

    First results

    Vegetation development

    In 2017, the sowing of wild plants resulted in an increase in the total number of plant species by 130% compared to the starting year 2016 (before the start of the trial conventional cultivation: open lanes alternating with ryegrass and white clover mixture), while the total number of species in 2018 decreased slightly due to extremely dry weather conditions. In 2019, the total number of species increased by 150 % compared to the initial situation in 2016 (Fig. 1).

    Of the total of 72 plant species sown on the Köppelberg block trial, 71 % had become established in 2017, while in 2018 the establishment rate fell to 57 % and increased slightly to 63 % in 2019.

    Nectar and pollen supply

    To estimate the nectar and pollen supply, abundance data on flowers (5 classes, 1-5) were recorded on the permanent plots from April to August 2018 and April, June-August 2019 respectively, multiplied by species-specific nectar and pollen values (e.g. Pritsch 2007 Bienenweide (5 classes, 0-4)), the product was divided by the number of repetitions and thus an average nectar and pollen index was calculated. The nectar and pollen supply for pollinators and other beneficial insects could be significantly improved by seeding (see Fig.2).

    To investigate the effect of wild plants on pollinators, butterflies and wild bees were mapped using the transect method from 2017 to 2019 at Köppelberg and at a neighbouring control vineyard.


    In 2017, 25 butterfly species were recorded at Köppelberg, in 2018 30 and in 2019 17 butterfly species were recorded. In each year more butterflies were recorded in the alleys sown with wild plants than in the control vineyard (Fig. 3, e.g. 2019 +200 %). Among the recorded species are also many endangered species such as the mallow butterfly (Carcharodus alceae) or the sky-blue blue butterfly (Polyommatus bellargus).

    Wild bees

    A total of 67 bee species were recorded on Köppelberg in 2017, 66 bee species in 2018 and 62 in 2019. Thus in 2017 61 %, 29 % in 2018 and 59 % in 2019 of the captured bee species used the experimental block as habitat or pollen/nectar source. While in 2017 a similar number of bee species could be detected on all three variants within the block experiment, in the next two years it became apparent that the low-growing variant was used by more bee species than the high-growing and conventional grass/clover seed (Fig.4). Nevertheless, in all three years of the study, significantly more bee species were detected in the vicinity of the block experiment. After the number of wild bee species in the block experiment had decreased by half from 2017 to 2018 due to the hot summer, more bee species could be detected again in 2019.


  • Work package 3: Inter-row management in vineyards by sheep grazing

    Work package 3: Inter-row management in vineyards by sheep grazing

    In grazing vineyards with robust sheep breeds, we want to decrease the use of machinery on steeper slopes. To establish dry grasslands between the vine rows, a species-rich seed mixture of wild plants from certified regional propagation was sown in the demonstration site Saalhäuser in autumn 2016. The incorporation of an adjacent orchard in the grazing concept allows a flexible use of sheep in the vineyard.

    The sheep are responsible for canopy management of inter-rows and vine understory vegetation. On the Saalhäuser vineyard, a trial with two management variants (grazing, mowing) was installed. Beginning in 2017, different parameters regarding vegetation, erosion potential, vitality of vine plants, as well as grape quality and quantity are measured in regular intervals to allow comparisons between grazed and mown variants. Sheep activities are observed during grazing intervals in the vineyard. In addition, the abundance of selected animal groups (butterflies, wild bees, birds) is monitored regularly on both management variants in the trial vineyard and on an adjacent control vineyard sown with a commercial seed mixture.

    Responsible: Anhalt University of Applied Sciences

    First results

    Feeding behaviour of the sheep

    The grazing led to a strong reduction of biomass in the alleys, the understock area and the vines. As a result, two fungicide treatments were less necessary in 2017 than on the mulched areas. The sheep's activities were mainly divided between resting (66%) and feeding (24%). The lower level area was slightly more frequently visited by the sheep than the intermediate alleys. The unripe grapes were of no interest to the animals. After grape ripening, they were partly eaten, but the total damage remained small (see Fig.5).

    In 2018 the feeding behaviour of the sheep was analysed by means of GPS collars. It was found that grazing of the areas took place mainly at night, but this was partly due to the high heat in summer 2018 (Fig. 6). It also became clear that the entire area was grazed evenly, with the sheep preferring to stay on the higher slopes, especially at night. There was no under- or overgrazing of individual areas.


    In 2017 22 butterfly species were recorded on the Saalhausen vineyard, in 2018 31 and in 2019 29 butterfly species. There were hardly any differences in the number of butterfly species between the grazed transects and the mulched transects (Fig.7). The proportion of valuable species is higher in the Saalhausen vineyard than in the Köppelberg. In all three years more butterflies were recorded on the wild plant variants than on the conventionally managed control vineyard.

    wild bees

    A total of 58 wild bee species were recorded in 2017, 70 wild bee species in 2018 and 71 wild bee species in 2019 on the Saalhausen vineyard and the surrounding areas (Göttersitz, hiking car park and vineyard paths). For the first time during the mapping in 2019 more bee species could be detected on the block test (54 species) than in the surrounding area (39 species). In 2017, 55 % of all wild bee species used the block experiment, in 2018 it was 57 % and in 2019 76 % ("BLOCK", Fig. 8). Regardless of the management method, more wild bee species could be detected in all three years in the alleys with the higher-growing wild plants than in the alleys with the lower-growing wild plants. After the number of bee species tripled from 2017 to 2018 on the control area, it slightly decreased again in 2019. In all three years, fewer bees were caught on the conventionally sown control areas than on the wild plant varieties in the block trial.

  • Work package 4: Soil investigations and recording of the erosion potential

    Work package 4: Soil investigations and recording of the erosion potential

    The aim is to create high-resolution maps of the vineyards, e.g. B. on soil type, depth, carbonate content, water and nutrient storage capacity as well as an assessment of the erosion risk for the test sites in the project region. A viticulture-specific risk forecast tool is to be developed for the latter question. In addition, accompanying investigations are carried out (network of measuring points for soil-plant-climate, erosion potential) on the two demonstration vineyards Köppelberg and Saalhäuser.

    Responsible: JENA-GEOS®-Ingenieurbüro GmbH

    First results

    In 2018/2019, the total cover in April was around 70%, but decreased drastically to below 10% on all greening variants due to the persistent drought by August (Fig. 9). On the wild plant variants, however, the total coverage increased again significantly to around 45-50% by November 2018 / September 2019, while on the conventional variant the coverage of the herbaceous layer was only around 25-35% up to November 2018 / September 2019. reached. The wild plant variants therefore had more resilience and, due to the higher cover values ​​(especially the herbs), were able to develop their erosion-preventing effect better than the conventionally greened variant.




  • Work package 5: Assessment of ecosystem services in vineyards

    Work package 5: Assessment of ecosystem services in vineyards

    Effects of different methods for re-vegetation and management of inter-rows in vineyards will be compared concerning their impact on biodiversity and selected ecosystem services: provision (e.g. grape production and quality), regulation & maintenance (e.g. pollination, pest control, water retention capacity, erosion control) and cultural (e.g. education, tourism, aesthetics). Selected indicators are e.g. number of flowering pollen and nectar plants, number of butterflies, hoverflies, and wild bees, different soil parameters, rooting, soil loss, water stress of vine plants, vine vitality, acidity and sugar content of grapes, harvest volume). In a second step, we want to include the expected climate change in the equation, calculating the advantages of climate-adapted management measures in vineyards with cost-benefit-analyses.

    Responsible: Landgesellschaft Sachsen-Anhalt


Lead partner

Landgesellschaft Sachsen-Anhalt: Jörn Freyer (Project coordinator, freyer.j@lgsa.de), Dr. Cornelia Deimer (coordination WP5, deimer.c@lgsa.de)

Project partner

· Landesweingut Kloster Pforta: Bastian Remkes (remkes@kloster-pforta.de), Jens Eckner (coordination WP1, eckner@kloster-pforta.de)

· Hochschule Anhalt: Prof. Dr. Sabine Tischew, Dr. Anita Kirmer (coordination WP2-3), M.Sc. Jenny Förster, Mark Pfau (M.Sc.), Dipl.-Ing. (FH) Hendrik Teubert

· JENA-GEOS®-Ingenieurbüro: Christoph Scheibert (Koordination Arbeitspaket 4, scheibert@jena-geos.de), Sascha Meszner

Cooperation partner

· Landesanstalt für Landwirtschaft und Gartenbau Sachsen-Anhalt
· University of Debrecen, Department of Ecology
· Höhere Bundeslehr- und Forschungsanstalt für Landwirtschaft Raumberg-Gumpenstein


Funded by: EU-Förderprogramm für Klima und Umwelt, LIFE

Project number: LIFE15 CCA/DE/000103 LIFE VinEcos

Duration: 7/2016 - 12/2020

Project website:LIFE VinEcoS