In Hainich National Park, over 90 percent of the area are not in economic use. Here, nature is returning to its roots, it may and shall proliferate as wilderness, true to the motto of all German national parks "Natur Natur sein lassen" (Leaving nature to its own devices).
Wilderness has become very rare in densely-populated Europe. In contrast to working forests, the woodland in Hainich National Park may develop back, untouched, into a "primeval woodland in the heart of Germany" for future generations, only following its own rules: It is allowed to grow old naturally, trees are free to fall down when their time has come and deadwood stays here. This is how diverse new life can emerge. Our wilderness of tomorrow is in the making here.
Deadwood does not mean that there is no life in it. On the contrary: About one quarter of all forest inhabitants depend on deadwood. It is habitat, nesting place or food source for numerous insects, small mammals, reptiles and amphibians. Many insects live under the bark of dead trees. Bats also often make their home under peeling bark.
Deadwood is an important element in the forest's cycle. In some parts of the national park, there are already significant deadwood stocks today, similar to what you find in genuine primeval forests.
The forest itself also depends on the creepy-crawlies of its deadwood: earthworms, insects, millipedes and bacteria decompose wood as well as dead plants and cadavers into their starting substances. Humus is created, whose nutrients are in turn needed for the growth of the forest plants. If there is no deadwood, the biological balance of the forest is harmed.
Nature has no yardstick for measuring time, order and beauty. In nature, there is neither chaos nor economic targets, neither usage nor damage. Nature only knows a dynamic process of coming into being, growing and dying.
Wilderness is created as a contra-position to culture, to civilisation, and is thus a cultural phenomenon. Wilderness cannot be defined by science. Wilderness in national parks means the dynamic approach in nature protection – "Natur Natur sein lassen" – allowing natural processes, without interference by man and without precast knowledge about the exact route and final destination of the process. Wilderness starts as soon as natural processes overwrite the doings of man. National parks guarantee this to happen, permanently and on a large scale. They are therefore at the heart of implementing the wilderness aims of our national biodiversity strategy.