German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Habitats (Biotops)

Conservation status of lowland hay meadows in Germany according to 2007 and 2013 Habitats Directive reports

Loss of area and qualitative deterioration in grassland: The example of lowland hay meadows

Lowland hay meadows were once one of the most common grassland types in Germany. Farming intensification has resulted in considerable losses of area for this habitat type in all regions – a trend that continues under current conditions.

The ‘lowland hay meadows’ habitat type (under the Habitats Directive) includes species-rich, extensively managed hay meadows of the lowlands and hills. Such meadows are prolific with late-flowering herbaceous plant species, receive little fertiliser and are not mown before the main flowering season of the grasses. As well as dry meadows such as with meadow sage and false oatgrass, there are also moist and wet types, for example with Sanguisorba officinalis. These grassland types were originally found in nearly all parts of Germany.

According to the 2013 Habitats Directive report, the conservation status of this habitat type is bad in all regions. Compared with the 2007 Habitats Directive report, the situation in the Continental region has further deteriorated by a whole assessment grade. The overall ongoing trend is assumed to be negative.

Lowland hay meadows primarily threatened by more intensive farming

Lowland hay meadows were already threatened in the past, primarily by more intensive management (increased fertilisation and more frequent mowing). This land use pressure continues and is further compounded by an increasing tendency to plough up grassland for arable use (for example to grow energy crops). On the other hand, increasing areas of such meadows are being lost, notably in marginal sites, due to the abandonment of traditional land use forms (such as the hay meadow). Meadows outside of protected areas are most severely affected by these changes.

Lowland hay meadows are an example of the general trend towards loss of grassland area and the qualitative deterioration of grassland. The area of grassland decreased in absolute terms in all Bundesländer over the period 2003 to 2012.