German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Alternative Conservation Strategies for Landscape Development

"Semi-open pasture landscapes" - "Management by severe disturbance" - "Wilderness areas"

In recent decades, modern developments in land management and altered economic settings have caused substantial loss of valuable open habitat and of entire landscapes characterized by such habitats. This is affecting in particular the extensively used grassland habitats - and, ultimately, traditional cultural landscapes in their entirety. One of the causes is the strong trend towards abandonment of farming activity, leading to the cessation of land use over large areas, particularly in areas previously used extensively. On the other hand large-scale afforestation of these areas of great conservation importance and cultivation for energy crops are further contributing factors for the decrease of these habitats.

Weidelandschaft "Höltigbaum"

In a conservation perspective, it is highly improbable that traditional conservation approaches (e.g. habitat management activities, or conservation management agreements) will be able to preserve all of the open areas formerly used extensively (damp meadows and fen grassland, dry siliceous and chalk nutrient-poor grassland, sand grassland, dwarf-shrubland etc.)  over the medium to long term. This is mainly because agriculture is withdrawing from these areas or being intensified for energy crop cultivation. Furthermoore financial resources for habitat management are limited.

There is thus a need to deploy new conservation strategies (cf. RIECKEN et al. 1998). In addition to novel habitat management approaches (such as "management by severe disturbance") the development of "semi-open pasture landscapes" presents promising alternative avenues.

New Forest (England): Lichter Wald
Vilm bei Ruegen: Alter Wald

These approaches not only aim to leave certain habitats open, but also to restore open forest ecosystems, such as were widespread under the influence of natural large herbivore communities, at least in certain regions. The concept of "semi-open pasture landscapes" is modelled on traditional agricultural use, while that of "management by severe disturbance" is modelled on naturally occurring disturbances such as floods, windbreak or forest fires.

The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) has been working intensively on these issues for many years. In addition to concept development and national-level expert conferences, the results of which are documented in four readers, the Agency supported testing and development projects concerned with pasture landscapes (only in German).

Further references

Titelbild Naturschutz und Biologische Vielfalt, Heft 73
Titelseite Naturschutz und Biologische Vielfalt, Heft 36
Titelseite "Wilde Weiden"

Further information

Conceptual background


For further information please contact:

Uwe Riecken
Peter Finck

FG II 2.1

Last Change: 26/01/2018