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# A new wilderness for Central Europe? The potential for large strictly protected forest reserves in Germany

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... Here, biologically intact ecosystems could persist as very low levels of human activity sustained biodiversity and the related ecological processes (Bryant et al., 1997;Watson et al., 2016). In contrast, the terrestrial ecosystems in Central Europe were widely transformed into cultural landscapes, so that today few wilderness areas remain (Rosenthal et al., 2015;Brackhane et al., 2019a). Natural disturbances, defined by type, frequency, return interval, spatial extent, intensity (energy flow per areas per time) and severity (magnitude of impact), are an important factor initiating natural dynamics and create site-specific habitats Picket and White, 1985). ...
... The European Union aims at increasing the extent of strictly protected areas (hereafter strict PAs) to halt the loss of biodiversity in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity (European Commission, 2013Commission, , 2020. Similarly, the German "wilderness" strategy aims to implement strict PAs on 2% of the country's terrestrial territory (Küchler-Krischun and Walter, 2007;Brackhane et al., 2019a). The ((European Commission, 2020), p. 5) states that "strict protection (…) leaves natural processes essentially undisturbed to respect the areas' ecological requirements". ...
... In this study we mapped the potential occurrence of selected natural disturbance types and conducted a protected area gap analysis for areas potentially subject to natural disturbances in Germany. Germany was selected as a case study because it has the most advanced wilderness goals among Central European states despite its high population density (Brackhane et al., 2019a). We drew upon Picket and White (1985) in defining disturbance as any relatively discrete event in time that disrupts ecosystem, community or population structure and changes resources, substrate availability, or the physical environment. ...
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Natural disturbances are largely suppressed in Central European landscapes due to economic and human safety concerns. European goals to increase the extent of secondary wilderness areas have the potential to support the restoration of threatened habitats associated with natural disturbances. Germany is among the Central European countries with the most advanced wilderness goals. This study aimed to investigate whether habitat types shaped by natural disturbances are mostly red-listed as threatened and require special consideration within systematic conservation planning (SCP). First, we reviewed literature and the German Red List of Threatened Habitat Types to identify the conservation status of habitat types associated with three natural abiotic disturbance types in Germany: floods, forest fires and landslides. Second, we mapped the potential area coverage of these disturbance types and identified gaps in the current network of strictly protected areas (PA) to inform SCP. Fifty-two per cent of the habitat types associated with the three disturbance types floods, forest fires and landslides were listed as “critically endangered” (n = 1) or “endangered to critically endangered” (n = 9). The potential area for river dynamics accounted for 4.3% of German terrestrial territory, areas potentially subject to forest fires accounted for 0.9% and areas with a very high susceptibility to landslides for 1.1%. Areas potentially subject to forest fires (0.15% strict PA coverage) and river dynamics (0.81%) were underrepresented in German National Parks and the core zones of Biosphere Reserve, whereas strict PA coverage of areas with a very high susceptibility to landslides was higher (6.8%). European and German wilderness goals can support the restoration of threatened habitat types associated with natural disturbances if spatial information on those areas is integrated into SCP concepts. Yet, sophisticated management regimes will be required to resolve conflicts between wilderness areas subject to natural disturbances and the surrounding cultural landscape and infrastructure.
... Germany has one of the most ambitious wilderness goals among EU member states (Brackhane et al., 2019b;Brackhane, Schoof, Reif, & Schmitt, 2019a;Brackhane et al., 2018). The National Biodiversity Strategy (NBS), adopted by the German government in 2007, aimed to establish wilderness areas on 2% of the country's land area by 2020 (BMU, 2007). ...
... They serve to permanently provide for the ecological functioning of natural processes without human interference" (Schumacher et al., 2018, p. 47). Currently, approximately 0.6% of the German territory comprises wilderness areas (Schumacher et al., 2018;Brackhane et al., 2019a). Terrestrial wilderness areas in Germany are largely confined to the core zones of the country's 16 National Parks and 16 Biosphere Reserves, as well as some nature conservation areas and National Natural Heritage Sites (Schumacher et al., 2018). ...
... The NNHS Rechlin, located in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany's least populated federal state, was chosen as a case study because it is large enough for designation as a wilderness area (>1000 ha; BfN, 2018). However, it does not qualify as a wilderness area according to the criteria developed by Brackhane et al. (2019a). This is because the area is dissected by a waterway that is not part of the NNHS and is used for tourism. ...
Article
The European Union aims to increase the extent of strictly protected areas, including wilderness areas. However, operationalizing this goal in densely populated Central European member states like Germany, that consists almost entirely of cultural landscapes and will need to rely largely on secondary wilderness areas, is challenging. Anthropogenic influence should be minimized in wilderness areas to support species that depend on undisturbed ecosystems shaped by natural processes. Based on a literature review, we developed a set of criteria to assess the spatial and legal suitability of potential wilderness areas, evaluate their ecological condition and measure the magnitude of human impact. We used available datasets to apply those criteria to a potential wilderness area (PWA), the National Natural Heritage Site Rechlin. From the 20 criteria identified, 12 could be assessed using available datasets, including fragmentation, connectivity, naturalness, habitat continuity and anthropogenic pollution. The PWA Rechlin comprises an area of 1349 ha that is traversed by 9 km of major public roads and waterways; and further fragmented by 81 km of unpaved forest paths. Most of the area is forest (89%), dominated by plantations of the allochthonous species Pinus sylvestris and Picea abies (84%). The majority of forest stands are in the establishment (45%) and early optimum stage (41%). Emissions of nitrogen and phosphorous have caused the eutrophication of two lakes within the candidate site and may affect the potential for natural regeneration of Asperulo-Fagetum forest. Although the NNHS Rechlin does not comply fully with fragmentation and naturalness criteria, the site could be considered for a future wilderness area, especially given the limited availability of other suitable sites in Germany.
... Here, biologically intact ecosystems could persist as very low levels of human activity sustained biodiversity and the related ecological processes (Bryant et al., 1997;Watson et al., 2016). In contrast, the terrestrial ecosystems in Central Europe were widely transformed into cultural landscapes, so that today few wilderness areas remain (Rosenthal et al., 2015;Brackhane et al., 2019a). Natural disturbances, defined by type, frequency, return interval, spatial extent, intensity (energy flow per areas per time) and severity (magnitude of impact), are an important factor initiating natural dynamics and create site-specific habitats Picket and White, 1985). ...
... The European Union aims at increasing the extent of strictly protected areas (hereafter strict PAs) to halt the loss of biodiversity in line with the Convention on Biological Diversity (European Commission, 2013Commission, , 2020. Similarly, the German "wilderness" strategy aims to implement strict PAs on 2% of the country's terrestrial territory (Küchler-Krischun and Walter, 2007;Brackhane et al., 2019a). The ((European Commission, 2020), p. 5) states that "strict protection (…) leaves natural processes essentially undisturbed to respect the areas' ecological requirements". ...
... In this study we mapped the potential occurrence of selected natural disturbance types and conducted a protected area gap analysis for areas potentially subject to natural disturbances in Germany. Germany was selected as a case study because it has the most advanced wilderness goals among Central European states despite its high population density (Brackhane et al., 2019a). We drew upon Picket and White (1985) in defining disturbance as any relatively discrete event in time that disrupts ecosystem, community or population structure and changes resources, substrate availability, or the physical environment. ...
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11 Natural disturbances are largely suppressed in Central European landscapes due to economic and human safety 12 concerns. European goals to increase the extent of secondary wilderness areas have the potential to support the 13 restoration of threatened habitats associated with natural disturbances. Germany is among the Central European 14 countries with the most advanced wilderness goals. This study aimed to investigate whether habitat types shaped 15 by natural disturbances are mostly red-listed as threatened and require special consideration within systematic 16 conservation planning (SCP). First, we reviewed literature and the German Red List of Threatened Habitat Types 17 to identify the conservation status of habitat types associated with three natural abiotic disturbance types in 18 Germany: floods, forest fires and landslides. Second, we mapped the potential area coverage of these disturbance 19 types and identified gaps in the current network of strictly protected areas (PA) to inform SCP. Fifty-two per 20 cent of the habitat types associated with the three disturbance types floods, forest fires and landslides were listed 21 as "criticially endangered" (n = 1) or "endangered to critically endangered" (n = 9). The potential area for river 22 dynamics accounted for 4.3% of German terrestrial territory, areas potentially subject to forest fires accounted 23 for 0.9% and areas with a very high susceptibility to landslides for 1.1%. Areas potentially subject to forest fires 24 (0.15% strict PA coverage) and river dynamics (0.81%) were underrepresented in German National Parks and 25 the core zones of Biosphere Reserve, whereas strict PA coverage of areas with a very high susceptibility to 26 landslides was higher (6.8%). European and German wilderness goals can support the restoration of threatened 27 habitat types associated with natural disturbances if spatial information on those areas is integrated into SCP 28 concepts. Yet, sophisticated management regimes will be required to resolve conflicts between wilderness areas 29 subject to natural disturbances and the surrounding cultural landscape and infrastructure.
... Reaching the 10% strict protection target in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 based on setting-aside wilderness areas or MDA will be difficult to implement in the most developed (urbanised) regions. A study by Brackhane et al. (2019) found that the percentage of land available to develop sites for wilderness areas in Germany varied greatly regionally and depends on the target minimum area. With a minimum non-fragmented land area (considering compactness through buffer zones) of 1,000 ha, around 10% of Germany's land-area could potentially be used, as opposed to 4.1% with 3,000 ha area or 0.6% with 10,000 ha. ...
... This implies a stronger focus on functions and processes and providing space to maintain or restore the features that rely on natural disturbances. The study of Brackhane et al. (2019) demonstrated that with an increase of the minimum area size required for designating new strictly protected wilderness areas (including forests) the potentially available land area will decrease sharply. For example, if the target was a minimum of 10,000 ha continuous land area outside of settlements (some countries apply this as minimum for national park designation), less than 1% of the land area in Germany would meet this critera. ...
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Primary and old-growth forests in the EU are extremely rare and threatened, yet play an irreplaceable role in biodiversity conservation and the provision of other ecosystem services such as carbon storage. Recognising this, the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 sets the target to strictly protect all remaining primary and old-growth forests. This target is part of a wider goal to protect 30% of EU land and to dedicate 10% of EU land for strict protection. Strict protection of the remaining EU primary and old-growth forests is a first and crucial step to ensure their long-term conservation. Despite the importance of this target, its implementation is currently prevented by several unanswered questions that require discussion among science and policy experts. This includes, for example, the question of how old-growth forest should be defined and where remaining primary and old-growth forests are located. In addition, there are ongoing discussions of how to best support strict protection of primary and old-growth forests and how to maintain and restore biodiversity, for example by preserving and allowing old-growth attributes to develop in forests that are managed for purposes other than conservation. This study specifically focuses on old-growth forests, given the increasing debate around this type of forest in Europe and their importance for forest biodiversity, but also includes information that is relevant for primary forests in a wider sense. The objective of this study is to inform discussions surrounding the implementation of the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 target to strictly protect primary and old-growth forests. The methods of this study included a review of scientific literature on (i) Defining old-growth forests, (ii) Evidence of old and old-growth forests in Europe; (iii) Approaches to protect old-growth forests and to maintain and develop old-growth attributes, (iv) Associated benefits, consequences, and potential trade-offs of old-growth forest protection and management and development of old-growth forest attributes; and (v) Policy implications.
... For a number of neophytes established in forested core areas, it is considered that they are practically impossible to eradicate locally and that measures against these species in the core areas are therefore contrary to conservation goals (Wattendorf et al., 2017). The active control of neobiota thus fundamentally conflicts with the conservation goal of protecting natural processes in wilderness areas Schumacher, Finck, Riecken, & Klein, 2018;Brackhane, Schoof, Reif, & Schmitt, 2019). ...
Article
In the core areas of National Parks (NPs), there might be a conflict between the approaches of process-based conservation, i.e. allowing natural ecological processes to develop without intervention, and of species-based conservation, i.e. active management to protect specific aspects of biodiversity. To better understand this conflict and its consequences, we collected data on non-native plant species (neophytes) managed in 12 German terrestrial NPs and the measures implemented to control these in the period 2006–2016. Based on this, we developed a decision-making process to identify the criteria that should be considered when determining the appropriate management of neophytes. This process considers the distribution of the species in the NP, age and zone of the NP, parameters for success, the degree of threat posed to local conservation goals by the species, and suitability of the measure. The application of this decision-making process to existing neophyte control measures showed that 18 of these measures should be continued, six should be adapted and three terminated. In the examined NPs, there is often no evaluation of performance against their stated goals in neophyte management. For most measures, their efficacy remains unclear. Preventive measures against neophytes are only carried out in four of the 12 NPs investigated here. Given that NPs have the goal of protecting ecological processes, this lack of preventive measures is critical. Especially in this category of protected area, avoiding the introduction of neophytes in the first place can significantly reduce the need for control and eradication measures later. A conflict of objectives between process-based and species-based conservation approaches currently exists in more than half of the NPs investigated here. The decision-making process does not resolve this conflict, but it does make the decisions more transparent and thus more communicable. By collecting and analysing the individual species-specific measures, it will be possible to reduce the number of measures in the future, thereby at least reducing the existing conflict of objectives. Promoting the protection of ecological processes for inherent reasons and following an actualistic interpretation of naturalness can improve the acceptance of neobiota in NPs.
Thesis
This PhD. focuses on the conditions of protection of the wilderness in Europe, which has become a central concept in the field of environmental conservation. Such areas are considered by their promoters as a means to respond to the contemporary major ecological challenges (e.g. battle against climate change, global biodiversity loss). In 2009, the European Parliament adopted a resolution encouraging State Members to designate large areas in a natural state in which all major human interference must be avoided. Since the end of the 2000s, many wilderness initiatives have emerged at various scales (i.e. local, national, international) across Europe. The aim of this research is to study the requirements for implementing wilderness protection strategies across Europe in di erent cultural and socio-ecological contexts and the limitations that emerge from these territories. Using a qualitative methodology, semi-structured interviews were conducted in the UK, the Netherlands and France, as well as with actors with European influence. This thesis shows that many stakeholders, mainly from NGOs, are utilizing this concept throughout Europe and are trying to implement its applications in different areas. These attempts could provide feedback on the issues that must be addressed and on the technical requirements necessary when carrying out wilderness projects. However, because the concept of wilderness is a cultural construct, it is difficult to grasp and to transpose. The difficulty to obtain a universal definition of the notion has led to the development of substitute concepts closer to the realities on the field (e.g. wild land, rewilding, free evolution), which result in the implementation of various strategies whose common goal is to promote the recovery of natural processes. Wilderness, shaped by local socio-ecological conditions, thus appears to be a means of rethinking nature protection policies at national and European levels, but also of reinventing the relationship between humans and non-humans.
Chapter
Referring to the manifold studies and the long-term experiences of the restoration of near-natural ecosystems and traditional land-use types, respectively, examples from all over the world are outlined. Additionally to rewilding as a progressive approach to nature conservation, letting nature take care of itself and enabling natural processes, particularly the restoration of heathland, agricultural grassland, savannas, agroforestry systems, silvopastoral systems, coppice forests, lakes, peatland, coastal mangroves, terraced and irrigation land-use systems is addressed. The unique features of these ecosystems and land-use systems, respectively, which are or could be embedded in traditional and multifunctional cultural landscapes encompass high biodiversity, agrobiodiversity, and agrodiversity, respectively, as well as the provision of manifold ecosystem and landscape services.
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Dieses Kapitel behandelt die Bedeutung von Akteuren in Renaturierungsprojekten. Renaturierung ist die absichtliche Veränderung der Umwelt in Richtung auf einen von den Akteuren als „naturnäher“ erachteten Zustand (Kapitel 1). Betroffen davon ist nicht nur die Umwelt der Akteure, sondern auch die Umwelt anderer. Daraus ergeben sich sowohl aktive wie passive Bezüge zur Renaturierung. Aktive und passive Rollen sind je nach Ausdehnung, Zeithorizont und Trägerschaft nicht immer trennbar, sodass die Unterscheidung in Akteure und Betroffene nur begrenzte Gültigkeit hat. Methodisch basiert die Untersuchung der Teilhabe an Renaturierung auf Akteurs- und Akzeptanzanalysen (vgl. Segert und Zierke 2004, Newig 2004). Die vorliegenden Ausführungen befassen sich schwerpunktmäßig mit dem Aspekt der Akteursanalyse. Die Frage der Akzeptanz wird kurz angesprochen (Kapitel 15, Umweltethische Aspekte). Anhand der Analyse zweier Fallstudien werden dann einige Schlussfolgerungen gezogen. Die Darstellung soll im Wesentlichen das Feld für zukünftig nötige Forschungsarbeiten strukturieren.
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Forest fragmentation leads to a dramatic increase in forest edge, and these edges may function as traps and concentrators for wind-borne nutrients and pollutants. We assessed the influence of forest edges on atmospheric deposition and subsequent inputs to the forest floor in deciduous-forest fragments in the eastern United States. To quantify these inputs, we collected throughfall—water that has passed through the forest canopy—from edge and interior zones of forests adjacent to open fields. During the 1995 growing season, atmospheric input (wet and dry deposition) of sulfur to forest edge zones was elevated compared with input to forest interiors. Throughfall fluxes of dissolved inorganic nitrogen and calcium were also greater at edges than interiors. The mean edge increases ranged from 17% to 56% for the nutrients and pollutants we measured. When we manipulated the structure of forest edges by removing all vegetation below half the canopy height, throughfall flux in the edge zone declined sharply and was less than that of the respective interior zone. Changing the vegetation structure of the edge also shifted the zone of highest throughfall flux farther into the interior of the forest. Our data suggest that forest edges can function both as significant traps for airborne nutrients and pollutants from adjoining agricultural or urban landscapes and effective concentrators of below-canopy chemical fluxes. These enhanced fluxes may have cascading effects on soil-nutrient cycling, microbial activity, seedling dominance, and other ecological processes near forest edges.
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The incidence of natural disturbance in forests is increasing globally as a consequence of global warming. The concomitant large-scale transformation of landscapes can have profound social impacts and trigger political conflict that hampers resource management. This paper explores the link between landscape transformations and political conflict using the example of the bark beetle epidemic in Bavarian Forest National Park, Germany. For a significant part of the local population, the bark beetle represented a threat to their homeland and the post-disturbance landscape of dead wood reflected the dominance of outside interests in land management. This resentment sparked the formation of a local political movement, which was successful in pressing for changes in the current land management policy that were based on the ideal of a green forest landscape that needed to be protected by human intervention. An alternative interpretation of the post-disturbance landscape, however, welcomed it as a step towards authentic wilderness and opposed interventions to control the bark beetle. These contrasting understandings of the post-disturbance landscape underpin the protracted political conflict over the appropriate management of natural disturbance that has been smouldering for more than 20 years. The article concludes that it is vital to understand the cultural meaning of landscapes before adopting a disturbance management policy in order to avoid paralysing political conflict and social unrest.
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To assess how forest edges affect dynamics of the interior forest community, we determine spatial patterns of physical environmental factors across two deciduous forest edges in eastern New York State, U.S.A. To enhance generality of this study's results, we used two edges with contrasting exposure and slope. Measurements in the exterior, interior, and presumed edge zone were taken to capture the full extent of environmental change. A nonlinear segmented regression model revealed a significant edge zone for several factors, At the northeast-facing site, zones for all factors measured were entirely external to the forest vegetation sidewall. At the northwest-facing site, edge zones of solar noon and maximum air temperatures and relative humidity mere located primarily outside the sidewall, while edge zones of photosynthetically active radiation and soil temperature were displaced toward the forest interior. Different edge effects were spatially displaced from one another, and their location was consistent with differences in forest exposure and aspect, confirming certain expectations of edge theory. However, the occurrence of all or much of edge zones of several factors outside the forest understory boundary, depending on site, suggests a refinement to edge theory that has important implications for management and restoration in fragmented landscapes.
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This paper explores the reasons for the growing interest in cultural landscapes in nature conservation circles. It contains a brief discourse on nature and culture, emphasizing the declining power of the idea of pristine wilderness, the realization that many disturbed ecosystems are important to conservation, that agri‐biodiversity is a resource to be protected along with wild biodiversity, and the need to find models of sustainable land use. Examples are given, at the global (World Heritage Convention), European and national levels, of the way in which the growing interest in cultural landscapes manifests itself; special attention is given to the category of protected area known as ‘protected landscape/seascape’. Finally, the author identifies the major natural qualities found in cultural landscapes which will assist in understanding, identifying and protecting those features of value.
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