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A long-term research project on the management of abandoned (fallow) grassland sites in Baden-Württemberg

As in the end of the 1960s thousands of hectares of agricultural sites were abandoned because their agricultural use was no longer economical, people began to ask themselves, by which means it could be managed to maintain the openness of cultivated landscapes and how grassland which proved to have no more economical use for farmers could remain open for future use. People feared afforestation of whole landscapes, especially in the mountain regions, whole valleys growing dark of trees in regions like the Black Forest, and the loss of room for recreation that necessarily needs to provide a certain amount of open land to fulfil the society’s expectations on an intact region for recreation. Concerning protection of biodiversity they feared the loss of high value grassland whose various species depend on usages or maintenance on a very low level.Locations of the experiment fields in Baden-Württemberg
Bearing these developments in mind, in 1975 the Ministry of Agriculture of Baden-Württemberg started fourteen “experiments on the preservation of open cultivated landscapes” in different regions of the federal state of Baden-Württemberg that were especially affected by abandonment of grassland.

The experiments are unique in Europe in their diversity and duration .

The long duration of the experiments of now 30 years provides the possibility to learn about the differences of succession processes on grassland sites and about the development of plant-societies after long-term extensive maintenance like mulching, mowing, prescribed fire and grazing in different intervals.
From this, practical methods for the maintenance of landscapes can be derived that are now published as a summary of the long-term research-project in a brochure from 2001. In view of a menacing scenario of a large-scale tearing back of agriculture from non-economic grassland sites and because of the high expenses of the land of Baden-Württemberg for landscape management, the research project gained the public’s interest anew.
Today the research project provides knowledge about the aimed, successful and reasonable use of resources for landscape management. Furthermore many assumptions could be validated by the long-term experiment and new information for science and practice could be gained. The 30 years of experience that could be gathered in the research-project proved some theory to be untrue so long. And with each additional year new information can be expected. That’s why the experiments are to be continued in future times.

Many participants of the administration and a lot of scientists were and are highly engaged in the maintenance and looking after of the experimental plots and the continuation of the research-project will be possible only by such a commitment.

In overall charge of the experiments is the Ministry for Nutrition and Rural Area of Baden-Württemberg. Responsible for the practical management are the regional governments resp. the regional offices for agriculture and the Institute for Land Management Compatible to Environmental Requirements. The experiments are technically looked after by the State Education and Research Institute for Livestock and Grassland Management (LVVG) and the State Institution for the Development of Agriculture and Rural Area (LEL).
Prof. Dr. Karl-Friedrich Schreiber (formerly university of Hohenheim, then university of Münster, Institute for landscape ecology, emerited), was the scientific co-ordinator, later on in cooperation with Prof. Dr. Helmut Jacob (University of Hohenheim, Institute for Farming and Pasture, emerited) and since some years with Prof. Dr. Gabriele Broll (University of Vechta) and Prof. Dr. Peter Poschlod (University of Marburg, special field nature conservation, now University of Regensburg). This summary of the long-term research-project is based on a continuous and successful collaboration of different offices and institutes.

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