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The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

Uwe Riecken, Peter Finck

Uwe Riecken, Peter Finck THE GERMAN GREEN BELT AS BACKBONE OF THE NATIONAL ECOLOGICAL NETWORK ecological corridors they can nevertheless serve as major planning aids in identifying these corridors. In a final step national ecological corridors of moist/wet as well as of dry/nutrient poor open landscape habitats were subsequently derived from these search areas. In this process the potential for respective habitat restoration and development was accounted for by using a simplified map of the potential natural vegetation [5 based on data from 8]. Thus corridors were derived that connect the major core areas of the respective habitat complexes. These corridors represent an abstract visualization of the major axes of ecological connectivity in Germany (see Fig. 2 for open landscape habitats). Figure 2: National ecological network of moist/wet as well as dry/nutrient poor open landscape habitats (Status: July 2010 [5, modified]) 2.2 The German Green Belt as part of the national ecological network Over the last decades a strip of mostly valuable habitats has developed in the area of the former ‘Iron Curtain’, which formed the inhumane border between East and West in Europe. This Green Belt harbours a lot of endangered species and ecosystems. The German part of the 24

Uwe Riecken, Peter Finck THE GERMAN GREEN BELT AS BACKBONE OF THE NATIONAL ECOLOGICAL NETWORK Green Belt has a total length of 1,393 km and covers an area of some 177 km 2 . It spans from the Baltic Sea to the Saxon-Bavarian-Czech border triangle. On its way it touches nine federal states, 38 administrative districts and two independent cities. The Green Belt covers all major landscape types in Germany except the alpine region. Due to its integrity and linear character it connects many large natural landscapes. In some regions the Green Belt forms the last remaining natural or near natural structure of any relevance within the countryside (Fig. 3). Figure 3: Core areas with national relevance for an ecological network in Germany. Detail from figure 1 showing the German Green Belt along the Border between Lower Saxony and Saxony- Anhalt. Red arrows indicate areas in which the Green Belt is the only structure of national importance for the national ecological network. Legend see figure 1 (Status: July 2010 [5, modified]) It often represents the most important retreat for endangered species in these landscapes. Different habitat types occur tightly interweaved within the Green Belt. This results in its high diversity in structure and species. Over 600 animal and plant species from the Red Data Book have made their homes in the Green Belt [9]. The Green Belt also connects many large areas of high nature conservational value that serve as core areas in a national ecological network (Fig. 1). A habitat mapping project carried out in 2001 demonstrated that about 85 % of the area of the German Green Belt had not yet been degraded at that time. Only around 11 % of the Green Belt had until then been converted into intensively used arable land and grassland. Another 2.4 % had been destroyed by traffic infrastructure, buildings and settlements [9]. Just looking at these results and its general shape and extend the Green Belt can already be expected to fulfil the function as a backbone for an ecological network of national and European importance. But does the Green Belt also fulfil the general criteria defined by Burkhardt et al. [1]? For the identification of ‘sites of national importance for the ecological network’ three criteria have been defined. They are very pragmatic and based on the knowledge of nation-wide available data like the results of the habitat mapping projects of the German Federal States (Bundesländer) or distribution maps of target species. A detailed analysis of species habitat requirements is not used in this process [1]. Each criterion has three categories: ‘national importance’, ‘supra-regional importance 1 ’ and ‘regional importance 2 ’. 1 importance for one federal state 25

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The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps
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