The Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide

A Reference Area for Biodiversity Research and Habitat Management Practice

flowerThe overall project goal is to bridge the gap between applied conservation practice and ecological research. Based on general knowledge about the loss of species and habitats worldwide (Living Planet Report) and the legal framework for the protection of valuable natural habitats (such as Natura 2000; siehe Protected Planet Report ), natural habitats must be preserved and developed with regard to the maintenance of natural diversity.

Especially on former military training grounds like the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide large, undivided landscapes could be established that are neither affected by settlements nor by agriculture. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Army in 1993, citizen movements fought for the peaceful utilization of the heath, so that in 2009 the Bundeswehr renounced further military use. Since 2011, 4000ha have been handed over to the Heinz Sielmann Foundation for Conservation Use as a National Natural Heritage Site. The goal is to protect and develop one of the largest European heathland areas that has been established on an area of 120 sq km. The European Dry Heath has been protected as a Natura 2000 site and must be managed under aspects of nature conservation.

A consortium of conservationists, landowners, users, researchers and the private sector has set itself the goal of realizing this challenge. On the one hand, the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide is to be made accessible to the citizens. Nature should be experienced in its diversity and an understanding for the preservation of biodiversity should be created.

On the other hand, we want to learn how biodiversity is created and use the knowledge gained to efficiently maintain the habitat of the European dry Heath. For this purpose, we regularly record the Kyritz-Ruppiner Heide with remote sensing sensors from satellites, airplanes and drones (picture left: Sentinel-2 satellite imagery time series April-September). We want to understand how plant and animal species organize themselves spatially and provide the acquired knowledge to a monitoring of nature conservation management.

In particular, on surfaces subject to ammunition, we work with engineers to construct a Heath Mowing machine. This will autonomously mow the heath, carry away the mown material and be controlled with the help of information provided from remote sensing sensors. Our project works hand in hand with conservation agencies and local environmental groups to transfer the generated knowledge and technologies to practice that could be implemented on other former military training areas.

See below the project structure that connects the different actors within and between their working domains

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The tasks resulting from the project structure are subdivided into 10 work packages. Each work package is realized, taking into account the network structures of the project involving all the responsible actors. Within 6 years (start February 2017) the following work packages will be realized:

AP-1: Imaging Spectroscopy for mapping the distribution of plant species and assessing the conservation status of all Natura 2000 habitats
AP-2: Habitat modeling of animal species, especially insects but also birds and lizards adapted to specific plant traits and habitat types
AP-3: Spatial differentiation of forests; characterize tree species, structural richness and undergrowth
AP-4: Development of a satellite-based monitoring system for mapping and spatial prediction of biodiversity indicators
AP-5: Development of an autonomous working and explosion protected heath mowing machine
AP-6: Research on the remote sensing-based detection ability for military contaminants and metal residues on the ground
AP-7: Analysis and application of ecological models for mapping spatio-temporal patterns of species and habitats
AP-8: Monitoring of the effects of habitat management; optimization/adaptation of management strategies to evaluate future conservation practice
AP-9: Efficiency analysis of remote sensing monitoring systems, mowing machine implementation and other habitat management techniques
AP-10: Public relations; communication of research results to local citizens; promotion of tourism via information boards and information events