Tales from the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve “Upper Lusatian Heath- and Pond Landscape” – EM-41 excursion, June 6, 2018
As challenging and complex as it might seem, the heath- and pond Landscape of Upper Lusatia has managed to embrace both, biodiversity conservation and human well-being, yet no doubt anyone can be convinced the project is sustainable, the secret being including people in the scheme: “by the people for the people”.
It started about 800 years ago when the Slavic people first arrived in the area which was almost 20% swampy landscape. Due to scarcity of land for cultivation, the monks tried to drain the area to suit cultivation. As a result there was influx of German people in the area. Due to the agricultural activities over the last 8 centuries most of the indigenous plant species were lost. To date only 1% of the plants are endemic in the natural habitat.
The success story begins with zonation to cater for the conservation, residency and economic activity in harmonious manner. ‘Designation as a UNESCO biosphere reserve means much more than protection of the natural landscape, because it also envisions sustainable development of the region. Economic development should be promoted whilst the cultural value of the landscape should be preserved.’ Walter Hirche, President of the German Commission for UNESCO
Scenic beauty of “Guttau” pond group
EM-41 participants having fun near the “Mucka Dune”
(i) Nature/Biodiversity Conservation
Although the heath- and pond landscape of Upper Lusatia has a long history; it was until 1992 when it was formally set aside as a conservation area with 30.102 hectares. In 1996 the area was recognized and approved as UNESCO biosphere reserve. The aim is the protection of natural ecosystems and their long-term productivity and functional capacity.
Today the area is a home to 1.100 plant and 3.600 animal species. This reserve is important for conservation in Germany; for example it is the only place where Bog Violet (Viola uliginosa) is found, furthermore it hosts more than 50% of Moss Grass (Coleanthus subtilis). Regarding fauna, the site hosts 20% of Saxony’s (about 5% of Germany’s) wolf population (Canis lupus) and an estimate of 5-10% of European otter (Lutra lutra) just to mention a few. In addition to this, the presence of 350 ponds in the biosphere reserve covering 125 hectares host 1000 breeding pairs of over 90 bird species making the site incredibly important and uniquely beautiful attracting lots of local and international tourists.
The group with tourguide Mr. Dirk Weis
Remaining native wetland species community
(ii) Economic Sustainability
Support should be targeted towards sustainable development options in the various sectors of the economy, e.g. organic farming, ecologically adapted forest management, and environmentally and socially compatible tourism. Fish farming, crop cultivation, cattle keeping and tree plantations are some of the viable economic activities in the Biosphere reserve.
Carp is one of the fish species farmed in 12 of 305 ponds at “Gutter Teiche” fishery ponds. Carp farming goes hand in hand with reeds management giving best scenic views to tourists who visit the area while bringing income to farmers and healthy meal to consumers. The whole view of ponds with associated species, e.g. reeds, ducks and other water birds are breathtaking!
(iii) Heritage Crop and Variety Project
With increasing healthy eating and lifestyle, the village Kreba-Neudorf has been keen and ventured to engage in crop cultivation. The project only grows old and seriously threatened grains of rye, wheat, oats and spelt. The cultivation follows the organic farming standards with no external agricultural inputs, the yield are said to be a rich source of vitamins, minerals and taste better. Rye bread is particularly good for people allergic to gluten. Furthermore products diversification and value addition chain has been in place by installing grinding mills, bakeries and specialty local brew brand.
Integrated approach: crop farming and afforestation
Traditional wheat species cultivation
(iv) Research and Sustainable Development
For sure this projects would not be successful without investing and collaboration between researchers with an interdisciplinary outlook aiming at hands-on sustainable development through constructive participation.
It is said seeing is believing. We would like to thank CIPSEM team, especially Tamara Karp, Susanne Barisch and Dirk Weis from the Biosphere Reserve, and the Ladusch family for facilitating this field training to EM41 participants on 6 June 2018 which convinced us that it is possible to embrace conservation also at the same time it is possible to practice other economic activities in a compatible manner while restoring the degraded area. At the end of the day environment is conserved, better income, healthy and happy living.
by Francisca J. Malembeka (Tanzania) & Dr. Liu Zhao (China)