WWF Germany and WEPA have been cooperating on various projects and initiatives since 2017. Along with the recycling of materials, these efforts focus on the protection of the climate, resources and freshwater.
WEPA therefore enthusiastically supports the renaturalisation of the threatened alluvial meadows on the Elbe. This large-scale project, submitted to the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation in the framework of the federal funding programme ‘Germany’s Blue Belt’, implements measures to remedy current deficits and protect the landscape over the long term. The softwood alluvial forests along the Elbe, which are threatened here as they are all across Germany, constitute a special focus of the project.
You will find all recent news about the Middle Elbe meadow landscape here.
What is the Middle Elbe meadow landscape project all about?
We support the project Auenerlebnis Mittlere Elbe | WWF for the protection of the natural meadows along the Middle Elbe. This project picks up directly where the previous ‘Wilde Mulde’ project left off. In this way, WEPA is continuing to make a positive impact in the area of the Elbe-Mulde lowlands and helping WWF to preserve one of the last large alluvial forest complexes in Central Europe for generations to come.
Many habitats in the alluvial meadow landscape depend directly on a healthy hydrologic balance and regular flooding. Current problems in the project region can be traced in part to the fact that the meadows along the Middle Elbe are becoming progressively drier. This in turn has various causes. For one, the smaller, regular flooding events that provide the landscape with water have been lacking in the last several years. Second, long periods of drought have resulted in a perpetually low water table, which only continues to drop. The dry periods in 2018 and 2019 in particular, as well as in the subsequent years, have negatively impacted the condition of the alluvial forests, wet meadows and small bodies of water. Forests, especially, are coming under additional stress due to tree diseases like ash dieback and pests such as the oak processionary moth and the oak-boring beetle. Through the reforestation and renaturalisation measures of the conservation project, we are pursuing the goal jointly with WWF of improving the quality of the alluvial forest as a basis for biodiversity and flood protection.
What are the goals of the project?
The project region is home to both humans and nature. Many valuable habitats, such as hardwood and softwood alluvial forests and the characteristic riverside meadows, only still exist in a remnant state. Here on the Middle Elbe, there are many natural resources that are seldom found on other sections of the river. Rare species like the osprey, the wildcat and the great capricorn beetle have found refuges in the project area.
We seek to achieve these principal goals by the end of 2023:
- Preparation and launch of the ten-year, large-scale project ‘Meadow renaturalisation on the Middle Elbe’ as part of the funding programme Germany’s Blue Belt
- Relevant public relations activities and environmental education initiatives on the topics of the Elbe and the protection of alluvial meadow landscapes
- Implementation of diverse measures for habitat and species protection on the Middle Elbe
What is the current status of the conservation project?
A number of things have been accomplished since the start of the project. These are some of the measures we are taking:
- Preliminary planning and further preparatory steps towards the 2023 launch of the ten-year, large-scale project ‘Meadow renaturalisation on the Middle Elbe’
- Establishment of a parent stock of rare willow species jointly with the conservation garden of the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve
- Establishment of softwood alluvial forests as habitat for the penduline tit, which is dependent on willow forests growing in proximity to water and is now endangered in Germany
- Tendering for the approval planning for the further conversion of single-species pine forests into biodiverse mixed deciduous forests
What further initiatives have we undertaken?
In 2022, we emphasised education and communication. Here are a few examples:
- In a joint excursion to the project area, employees from the WEPA sites in Kriebstein and Leuna, along with their families, learned about the work of WWF and a great deal about alluvial forests and the animals that dwell there.
- In addition, a number of environmental education events were held with a kindergarten, youth groups and voluntary ecological year participants in the state of Saxony-Anhalt. The topics were ‘The riverside meadow as a habitat’, ‘Sustainable paper production’ and ‘The condition and sustainable management of our forests’.
- Wildlife and landscape photographer Peter Ibe provided key support in the media work accompanying the partnership project.
- WEPA supported the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve in developing and implementing urgent measures to retain water in various meadow areas.
And the conservation project is far from over. There is a lot on our joint agenda with WWF, including numerous measures to be taken in 2023. Here is a look ahead:
- This year, with support from WEPA, WWF will launch the ten-year, large-scale project ‘Meadow renaturalisation on the Middle Elbe’. In the framework of the funding programme Germany’s Blue Belt, we want to work jointly with actors from the region to improve the condition of the meadow habitat and, through targeted conservation measures, develop it into a pearl of biodiversity on the Elbe. Plans include, among other measures, the renaturalisation of small bodies of water and biotopes for amphibians, the linking of former flood channels and the protection of valuable alluvial meadows through the development of a regional grazing concept.
- These conservation measures will be accompanied by many smaller and larger events that will be open to all who are interested. WWF and WEPA are convinced that we can only protect nature together.
- Parts of the WWF property on the Middle Elbe have been in so-called process protection for the last several years. This is meant to allow the valuable forest areas to gradually return to a wilder state, without human influence. How this natural development proceeds and whether the concept proves successful are important questions for the work of WWF. To be able to observe this process better, the WWF office is currently developing and testing the use of wildlife cameras and camera traps on-site.
- In autumn 2023, solitary oaks will be planted in the alluvial meadows of the Middle Elbe. These are native to the meadow landscape and will provide refuge for various animals – for example, endangered insects such as the great capricorn beetle. The goal is to establish a sustainable population of oaks of various ages and to preserve the landscape in this form for coming generations.
- Finally, extensive species protection measures will be taken to help certain bats and cavity-nesting birds by installing bat boxes and nesting aids in the WWF forests.
Photos:copyright: Peter Ibe, WWF Germany