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Project of the month

Extension of the open dune landscape

One of the two forested areas before the start of the works

One of the two forested areas before the start of the works © Corinna Kaiser, Bezirksregierung Münster

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Open inland dunes with sandy dry grasslands and heath vegetation are among the habitat types of the European Union that are particularly protected. Many of the animal and plant species living here as ‘sand specialists’ are rare and endangered - some, such as the sand lizard, are also protected via the Habitats Directive. The sand heaths and sandy dry grasslands that were once widespread in the Atlantic region and especially in the Münsterland have now disappeared except for a few remnants, and their overall conservation status is assessed as poor. Therefore, measures to preserve the last occurrences and promote these habitats with their unique flora and fauna are of national importance. The nature reserve ‘Bockholter Berge’ in the northern Münsterland is home to one of the last juniper heaths along the river Ems. The dune area, which covers about 61 hectares and is now mostly forested, is located east of the town Greven-Gimbte. Together with the neighbouring floodplain of the river Ems, it is designated as a protected area under the Habitats Directive and thus part of the Europe-wide NATURA 2000 network.

To restore unwooded dunes with open sandy areas, extensive measures adjacent to the existing heath areas in the nature reserve were carried out as part of the LIFE IP Atlantic Region DE in cooperation with Landesbetrieb Wald und Holz NRW (NRW State Forestry and Timber Agency), the district of Steinfurt, the NABU Nature Conservation Station Münsterland and the Biological Station of the district Steinfurt. In January 2021, the pine forest was first removed from a total area of about 1.5 hectares. Old and characteristic trees were preserved. In the second step, the humus-rich topsoil was removed to obtain nutrient-poor sandy soil. Since then, heath and sandy dry grassland have been able to develop here. The decision to convert the forest was made because of the special nature conservation objective; the loss of forest was fully compensated for by reforestation of semi-natural mixed deciduous forests in the wider surroundings.

Through an additional funding application, the NABU Nature Conservation Station Münsterland was able to acquire grants from the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in accordance with the funding guidelines for nature conservation (FöNa) for the construction of a seating area; the nature conservation foundation of the district of Steinfurt took over the necessary own contribution. With the installation of the seating area and a volunteer campaign in which 50 junipers were planted, the measures in the ‘Bockholter Berge’ were completed in December 2021. In the future, an information board in the area of the seating area will provide information about the LIFE IP and the measures carried out.

The second sub-area also had heavy vegetation before.

The second sub-area also had heavy vegetation before. © Corinna Kaiser, Bezirksregierung Münster

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