Field trip through the UNESCO biosphere reserve Heath and pond landscape of Upper Lusatia

Author: Karimon Nesha

39th UNEP/UNESCO/BMUB course along with Tropical Forestry students of TU Dresden in the Biosphere Reserve

The purpose of UNESCO biosphere reserves is the protection of cultural landscapes. The size of the Biosphere Reserve Upper Lusatia Heath and Pond Landscape is 30.102 ha of which 10000 ha are used for agriculture. The biosphere reserve has a very special character as a result of extensive land use including agriculture, forestry and ponds. The pond landscape is unique for this reserve and started 800 years ago. The ponds are used for the cultivation of carps. People are also seen as part of the biosphere and use resources sustainably. There is also a teaching path in the forest. The reserve administration reports every 10  years to the UNESCO.

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve has three zones:

  • Core zone : it covers maximum 20% of the area
  • Buffer zone
  • Transition zone or development area

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve fulfills three tasks:

  • Sustainable land use
  • Nature conservation
  • Environmental education called education for sustainable development (ESD)

Administrative tasks may also be included in forest management in addition to the three tasks of biosphere reserve.

Ponds in the Biosphere Reserve

Around 10% of the reserve area  is ponds. There are about 347 ponds in the Reserve covering  2.415 ha. The first pond established around 1000 years ago and the shape has not much changed in the last 500 years. Mostly, carps are cultivated in the pond. The ponds are not deep. It is only 0.5m deep and flat as the carps need warm water. Carps feed on  small animals in water and on cereals. In winter, the water freezes, so carps are taken out of the ponds and put in winter ponds which are deeper and consequently do not freeze completely. It takes around 2.5 years to cultivate carps in the ponds. The carps are bred mainly in mono-cultures. Farmers are given incentives to produce diverse fish in the ponds.  The production of fish in the ponds are estimated to be 500 to 1,000 kilogram per year and hectare.

Agriculture and biodiversity: Village Kreba-Neudorf, farm of family Ladusch

In the farm, old and seriously threatened grain species (rye, wheat, spelt) are cultivated based on crop rotation under The Heritage Crop Varieties Project started in autumn 1997 supporting preserving the biodiversity of crop plants. The old cereal species are resistant to diseases.  Since 2007, the area of old cereal species cultivation is increasing. Three species are currently highly productive in the farm.

Forestry and Biodiversity: Dune of Mücka

Dune of Mücka was a former military area. Along with the abandonment of exercises in this military training area in 1991 heavy shrub invasion and forestation took place by natural succession. The great importance of those sites for thermophilic and xerophilic species has already become obvious by first surveys of the entomofauna and avifauna. In the meantime more than 30 sand wasp species, 110 wildbee species and 50 nesting bird species are represented here. Among other things, it is habitat for more than 50% of the hoopoe population, the curlew, camprimulgus (Camprimulgus europaeus), and of the hobby (Falco subbuteo) in the biosphere reserve. Today this forest is privately owned by nature foundation.  There are four categories in the forest. These are mentioned below:

  • Category N: this category represents natural vegetation. Almost 80% of the tree species are pine and the age of the pine is more than 100 years. About 90% species are native.
  • Category Transition: In this category, 60% of the trees are pine and the age of the pines is over 80 years. In 20 years, this category is expecting to transform in category N.
  • Category UL: The ages of this category are below 80 years. It will take more than 20 years to reach the status of conservation.
  • Category S: special: It is a lower intermediate forest type.

A visit to the TU Dresden botanical garden

Without an entrance fee for the community, the publicly accessible Botanical Garden of the TU Dresden is not only home to native and endangered plants, but also serves as a botanical repository for plant species of ‘vulnerable’ status, highlighting the vital role of botanic gardens in the conservation of the same.

The visit started with an introduction on the historical development of the plant conservatory including the different locations wherein plant collections were held since 1820. This was followed by a description of the entire plant collection, namely a variety of 10,000 plant species from tropical, subtropical, old-world deserts and rain forests in America, Africa and Asia which are divided into species of annuals, perennial herbs, and woody plants. We warmly thank Dr. Barbara Ditsch, Dr. Stein, and Dr. Lindner for the lecture and guided touring around the garden with the unforgettable unique plants.

Before the excursion was completed, we also came to learn about the natural bees whose role in the maintenance of plant genetic resources and also plant conservation, not only in this garden but also worldwide, is regarded as very important. We felt we have had a tour around the botanical world within the confines of the TUD Botanical Garden, with the birds singing and the light-sunny peaceful ambience.


Report by Dang Diep Yen Nga (Vietnam) and photographs by Rocío Grommeck (Paraguay)

Excursion to Saxon Switzerland National Park

Out of the classroom, CIPSEM participants visited the National Park “Saxon Switzerland”, a good example for successful environmental education.

The tour was not only enriched by the landscape, but also enriching the mindscape: at the National Park Centre we learned about the efforts being made to educate people and communities about the environment and its associated problems, raise awareness and motivate them to solve these problems.

We finished the day with a short walk in the wild.

Report by Hiba Mohammad (Syria), photographs by Hiba Mohammad (Syria) and Dulip Somirathna (Sri Lanka)


EM-39 halftime … but no break

The mid-semester mark passed on Tuesday 12th, April 2016, at CIPSEM as EM-39 activities continue in full swing. The course started 3 months ago and most uncertainties from the beginning disappeared. The teaching and learning process here is dynamic, combining lectures, excursions and group work. Quite recently we visited the Natural History Museum of the Senckenberg Society in Görlitz, where we could experience not only local and international biodiversity aspects in the public exhibitions, but also we able to look behind the scenes and learning about the contribution to science by the researchers of the museum.

Back at CIPSEM the next day, Dr. Dittrich from the Professorship of Biodiversity and Nature Conservation conducted a role play and the participants were brainstorming for a solution on biodiversity and conservation with evaluation of the priorities, monitoring and management in a mountainous area.


I’m crazy busy. I’m busier than in any of my previous experiences here!” is a quote from one of the participants these days …

But there is a real sense of progress heading towards the second half of the course programme.


by Mehri Sadat Alavinasab (Iran)

SC65: Excursion to Berlin

The course headed to Berlin to participate in a workshop organized by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) at the International Climate Initiative. In the afternoon the group was first guided through the BMUB facilities and afterwards had the opportunity to explore more of Germany’s capital on their own.

(Photos: F. Biesing)

Visit at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and Hainich National Park

For the last excursion of the EM38 course, the group headed once more to Leipzig. This time a visit at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) was scheduled. The iDiv research centre is a joint institution between the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg, the Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Leipzig University. The research center was established in 2012 and conducts top-level research in biodiversity sciences with special focus on environmental change, sustainable development and bioresource management.

On the second day the group headed to Thuringia to visit the Hainich National Park. The park is part of the transnational UNESCO World Heritage Site ‘Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany’ and includes the largest unexploited area of broadleaf forest (50 km²) in Germany.

(Photos: A. Lindner, T. Karp)