22.12.2023 - Sustainability

How WEPA and WWF are protecting nature along the Middle Elbe

WWF Germany and WEPA have been cooperating on various projects and initiatives since 2017. The focus of these efforts lies not only on the production of hygiene paper, but also on the protection of the environment. Accordingly, WEPA enthusiastically supports the renaturalisation of the threatened alluvial meadows on the Elbe River. In the framework of the federal funding programme ‘Germany’s Blue Belt’, measures are being implemented to remedy current deficits and protect the landscape over the long term. These measures address particularly endangered softwood alluvial forests. In the following, we give you a look at our ongoing projects.

What we have achieved since our last update:

1 Launch of the large-scale project ‘Germany’s Blue Belt’

A feasibility study of the restoration of natural softwood alluvial forest habitat along the Elbe led to approval by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation and to the official submission of the proposal for the large-scale project ‘Germany’s Blue Belt’ in late May. The project is to begin in 2023. The study helped in completing the project proposal with respect to its feasibility, approvability and financial planning.

2 Establishment of a parent stock of rare willow species 

Jointly with the conservation garden of the Middle Elbe Biosphere Reserve, we have started cultivating a group of rare willow species. As initial steps, we registered the remaining locations in which these species grow and collected plant cuttings with which to begin this propagation.

3 Return to nature: conversion from pine to biodiverse mixed deciduous forest

In autumn 2023, we will begin transforming some 1.5 hectares of single-species pine forests into diverse mixed deciduous forests. Here, trees such as English oaks, small-leaved limes and common hornbeams will provide habitat for important native animal species. We are erecting fencing to protect the young trees from being eaten by wild animals and will tend the trees for five years. In doing so, we want to create a stable, natural forest that can adapt to future challenges.

4 Wildcat sightings in the Middle Elbe forests

This year, we once again sighted wildcats in the region by means of the wildlife camera. Exciting discoveries of this kind are often possible only by means of scientific observation. Our aim is to preserve the habitat of the wildcats and protect the population of this endangered species.

In addition, numerous environmental education events have been held in the project area on the topics ‘The riverside meadow as a habitat’, ‘Sustainable paper production’ and ‘The condition and sustainable management of our forests’ with various groups from the region. Ongoing support from WEPA will enable similar events to be held more frequently  in the future. Over the past years of the project, around 20 events have been held involving more than 350 participants. Employees from WEPA had a hands-on opportunity to experience the beauty and importance of nature in a joint tree-planting campaign in November 2023. Some 150 deciduous tree seedlings were planted and protective tubes were placed around growing saplings. Maintenance work was also done on existing nest boxes for birds and new ones were put in place. On-site, the achievements of WEPA and WWF Germany on the Middle Elbe thus far could clearly be seen, along with the further steps that are planned for the sustainable protection of the environment.