Riverine system of the Upper Ahr and its tributary streams (Ahr 2000)
The Upper Ahr and its tributary streams are an expansive riverine system which is representative of the natural landscape of the Eifel hills limestone region. The project area is the water catchment area of the Upper Ahr in North-Rhine/Westphalia (NRW). Within this area a contiguous core area is defined, encompassing the watercourses, their headwaters, floodplains and valley slopes. The watercourses exhibit near-natural structures and dynamics for the most part. The close proximity of nutrient-poor common grazing pastures on limestone, nutrient-poor meadow valleys, wet areas and deciduous forests results in a great variety of habitats such as fen woodlands and alluvial forests, reedbeds and sedge swamps, damp and wet meadows, limestone grassland and beech forests. Rare endangered plants and animals including 21 different orchid species, the bog fritillary (Boloria eunomia), kingfisher (Alcedo atthis), European brook lamprey (Lampetra planeri) and whiskered bats inhabit the area.
The project objective was to conserve, improve and safeguard the Upper Ahr and its tributaries in their near-natural state. Targeted action was taken to set in motion the river system’s natural development, return non-natural areas to a more natural condition and restore the ecological integrity of the river system. Extensive grazing in line with nature conservation objectives was introduced to conserve and foster habitats representative of the historically evolved natural and cultural landscape.
The project goals were attained and secured for the long term within the core area mainly by purchasing land and setting up habitats. Habitat set-up activities included:
- Removing weirs and reshaping other barriers to migration in the Ahr and its tributaries
- Designating buffer strips along the Ahr and its tributaries, and abandoning river management
- Restocking selected tributaries with European crayfish
- Transforming non-native spruce plantations into more natural floodplain tree cover
- Transforming non-native sparse pine plantations by interplanting copper beech and characteristic accompanying species
- Clearing bushy growth and carrying out the first mowing of limestone grassland, mat-grass swards and wet meadows
- Turning arable land into extensively grazed pasture
The entire core area has been designated a nature conservation area and a Natura 2000 site.