Wild willow

Pastureland in a national forest park?

The Hainich National Park advertises itself with the slogan "Primeval forest in the middle of Germany". With its ancient beech forests, it has even been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2011. It is known for this beyond the borders of Thuringia. So why is there open land in the national park and why should it be kept open in the future?

Until the 1990s, there were two military training areas on the site of today's national park: TÜP Weberstedt and TÜP Kindel. As the space required for the military exercises of the tanks was very high, large-scale clear-cutting was carried out in the 1960s and 1980s. Over the following decades, these areas had to be kept open, otherwise they would have been quickly reforested. The rootstocks were removed at regular intervals. Shepherds also led large flocks of sheep across the areas.

This so-called extensively used open land is very rare in the increasingly intensively used agricultural landscape of Thuringia, Germany and Europe and has therefore become very valuable. Animal and plant species that inhabit these open habitats have also become increasingly rare. They have found a home on the former military training grounds in today's Hainich National Park.

Today, Scottish Highland cattle, yellow cattle, Exmoor ponies, sheep and goats in the national park help to keep these areas open in the future. Permanent grazing areas are located on the Kindel near the hiking parking lot as well as near Bolleroda and on the Steinberg.

Loss of habitat

Around a third of our native plant and animal species make their home in extensively used meadows and fields. For centuries, agriculture has thus promoted biodiversity. By keeping the landscape open and cultivating it, many different habitats were created in which skylarks, cornflowers and even the golden fritillary butterfly felt at home.

Unfortunately, our agriculture looks very different today. The agricultural deserts of intensive farming offer no room for diversity. Species-rich fields and pastures have become monotonous and species-poor areas. Fields are becoming ever larger, field margins and hedgerows are being lost, many areas are over-fertilized and pesticides, fungicides and insecticides are being used on a massive scale.

In addition to this intensification of agriculture, the abandonment of land use and associated succession in recent decades has also led to a loss of habitat for open land species such as the golden fritillary butterfly.

NATURA 2000 network of protected areas

Many species are highly endangered not only within one country, but throughout Europe. They are specially protected as part of the NATURA 2000 transboundary European network of protected areas. This system of protected areas is made up of the individual areas of the Fauna (animals) - Flora (plants) - Habitat Directive, or FFH areas for short, as well as those of the Birds Directive.

The aim of the Habitats Directive is to safeguard and protect wild species, their habitats and the Europe-wide connectivity of these habitats. Connectivity serves to preserve, (re)establish and develop ecological interactions and to promote natural dispersal and recolonization processes. It thus also serves the commitments made by the EU Member States in 1992 to protect biodiversity (Convention on Biological Diversity, CBD, Rio 1992).

The animal and plant species and so-called habitat types to be protected are listed in the various annexes of the Habitats Directive. A selection of animal species that occur in the open land of the "Hainich" FFH area and bird sanctuary, are listed in the annexes and are therefore specially protected in the national park, are presented in more detail here .

Throughout Thuringia, there are more than 270,000 ha of 212 FFH and 44 bird sanctuaries, which together make up almost 17 % of the land area. In addition to the respective protected area administrations, 12 NATURA 2000 stations currently look after the FFH areas and bird sanctuaries.

More information at:
Natura 2000 in Thuringia