The Lüneburger Heide is what is left of preindustrial geestlands (heaths) characterised by extensive heath-farming. This historical cultural landscape still covered much of northern Germany in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the Lüneburger Heide is the largest heathland nature conservation area in Central Europe. The project area comprises all landscape components characteristic of northwest Germany: heather-covered heaths of various structures, sandy nutrient-poor grasslands, heathland streams, various types of mires, standing water, forests on old forest sites, ancient cultivated oak groves, pastoral woodlands and extensively used farmland. Along with numerous Red List species like the great grey shrike, the black stork, the woodlark, the nightjar, the Eurasian whinchat, the common stonechat, the Eurasian wryneck, the adder and the smooth snake, the Lüneburger Heide is home to the second-largest flatland population of black grouse in Germany.
The aim of this large-scale nature conservation project was to maintain, secure and develop this unique Central European landscape of national and international importance. This involved:
- Conservation and connection of the heathland areas
- Conservation and reirrigation of the mires
- Conservation and in some cases renaturalisation of the heathland streams and their valleys
- Conservation and near-natural development of the woodland and retention of historical forms such as coppiced oak and woodland pasture
Implementation of the project aims and securing the sites for the longer term involved land acquisition, long-term leaseholds and establishing new habitats in parts of the core area. The following habitat establishment measures were successfully conducted:
- Removal of non-native afforestation, trees and shrubs
- Sowing of heather
- Initial maintenance measures such as Plaggen (turf stripping down to mineral soils) and Schoppern (cutting and removing, or foraging/harvesting, of biomass)
- Establishing new sheep flocks and building a new sheep pen
- Sealing drainage ditches and removing saplings, pioneer trees and shrubs from mire areas
- Removal of wiers and other constructions in some heathland streams
- Renaturalisation of stream sections that have been deepened, straightened or channelled
- Establishment of a semi-open meadow landscape
- Clearing of non-native afforestation.
The core area lies entirely within the Lüneburger Heide nature conservation area, which is also designated as a special conservation area under the Habitats Directive and a protection area under the Birds Directive.