Ecologically valuable management of meadows and pastures

Ecologically valuable management of meadows and pastures

Saving species-rich grasslands is the focus of a new project funded by the German Federal Ministry of Research with a total of 3 million euros over the next three years.

Kartierübung mit Studierenden bei Brackede and der Elbe (Niedersachsen /Deutschland). Diese Wiese wird einmal jährlich gemäht.
Mapping exercise with students near Brackede on the Elbe (Lower Saxony /Germany). This meadow is mowed once a year.

Around one third of Germany's agricultural land is used for meadows and pastures. In its natural state, grassland is one of the world's most species-rich ecosystems and, according to experts, can even compete with the species richness of rainforests. Meadows and pastures are not only an important source of food for insects, they are also resistant to storms and can store carbon in the soil for a long time. However, most of Germany's ecologically valuable grassland areas have now become building land, arable land or forest, or have lost species richness due to intensive use. In Lower Saxony alone, half of the grassland areas are said to have disappeared.

Preservation and development of grasslands

Saving grassland areas is now the focus of the Grasworks project. Under the direction of Vicky Temperton and Anita Kirmer from the Anhalt University of Applied Sciences in Bernburg, researchers want to work with local stakeholders to investigate how grassland areas can be renatured. The project will analyze ecological, socio-ecological and economic facets of renaturalized landscapes. "With the results, we hope to make a significant contribution to answering the question of how meadows and pastures can be managed to create and maintain ecologically high-quality ecosystems while compensating farmers fairly for these public benefits," explains Vicky Temperton.

Promoting a change in awareness

Three model regions in northern, central and southern Germany, each with 30 already renatured areas, were selected for the project. In addition, real laboratories are to be set up in the selected regions, in which concrete measures for the restoration of ecologically valuable landscapes are to be developed and implemented in cooperation with local actors from agriculture and biosphere reserves. One aim of the project is to establish the reallabs as lighthouse projects in order to initiate a change in awareness in the use of grassland.

The study of a total of 90 selected renaturation sites will be funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research with a total of 3 million euros over the next three years.