Limestone slopes in the central Saale river valley (Muschelkalkhänge im mittleren Saaletal)
The landscape consists of broad-scale dry meadow complex formations on limestone, usually on sloping sites (dry forests, dry meadows, thermophilous scrub). On plateau sites, limestone-beech or oak-hornbeam forests dominate. On two former military training areas, expansive areas of limestone grassland have developed. The main threats to the area arise from the planned expansion of the BAB 4 motorway, possible expansion of settlements, intensive recreational use and bush encroachment onto the dry meadows.
In the project area a wealth of plant and animal species are found which are threatened nationally. The vascular plants concerned include numerous orchid species, the yellow rattle species Rhinanthus alectorolophus subsp. aschersonianus and the cross-leaved gentian (Gentiana cruciata). Furthermore a numerically abundant population of lesser horseshoe bats (Rhinolophus hipposideros, a Habitats Directive Annex II species) exists in the project area. Among the bird species, the following endangered species add to the area's conservation interest: The rock bunting (Emberiza cia), hobby (Falco subbuteo), crested lark (Galerida cristata) and woodlark (Lullula arborea), the nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus), northern shrike (Lanius excubitor excubitor), wryneck (Jynx torquilla) and the Eurasian eagle owl (Bubo bubo). Amphibians of national significance, the European tree frog (Hyla arborea), the great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and the natterjack toad (Bufo calamita) form sizeable populations on the former military training areas. The endangered butterfly species include the mountain alcon blue (Maculinea rebeli) and the dusky large blue (Maculinea nausithous), the scarce swallowtail (Iphiclides podalirius) and the damon blue (Agrodiaetus damon).
Key project objectives are to maintain the open dry and semi-dry meadow landscape, to develop near-natural woodlands, to conserve open orchard meadows, to manage visitors and to reduce negative impacts from the planned extension of the BAB 4 motorway.