Coastal Empetrum nigrum heathland (Krähenbeer-Küstenheiden)
Close to Cuxhaven is the site of the largest expanse of heathland dominated by crowberry (Empetrum nigrum) on the mainland side of the German North Sea coast. In large parts of the core area, the heathland ranges across the geest right up to the Wadden Sea. The site is characterized by different formations of Empetrum nigrum heathland, light pine forests with crowberry in the understorey, open sand dunes, low moor heathlands and oak coppice forests. Of the numerous endangered plant and animal species, representative examples are the marsh gentian (Gentiana pneumonanthe), slender sedge (Carex lasiocarpa), oblong-leaved sundew (Drosera intermedia) and viper's grass (Scorzonera humilis), along with the northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), grey partridge (Perdix perdix), whinchat (Saxicola rubetra), stonechat (Saxicola torquata), moor frog (Rana arvalis), and the carabid species Calosoma auropunctatum which is threatened with extinction throughout Germany. The principal objective of the project is to preserve existing habitat types with special conservation value and to bring about the development of new heathland habitats by adapting management practices in line with the original form of land use.
So far project funding has been used to acquire sites amounting to a total area of 102 ha in the core areas. Overall, approximately 166 ha of heathland, forest and land previously used for agriculture are available for conservation purposes. Management measures have been carried out over approx. 40 ha of heathland including scrub clearance and small-scale sod stripping from heathlands rich in raw humus. In order to re-establish heaths on the sites formerly used for agriculture, soil fertility was depleted on arable and grassland sites of approximately 25 ha by mowing, grazing or arable farming without inputs of fertilizers.
Existing coniferous forests in the area will be converted into structurally rich heathlands in the long term. Due to opposition from the local population approximately 20 ha of forest land was not completely uprooted, but instead substantially thinned to allow ericaceous plants to establish in the understorey. Furthermore neophytes - black cherry (Prunus serotina) and dog-rose (Rosa canina) - were controlled, and visitor management measures were taken.