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Conservation projects

Climate change and birds breeding on the Halligen

This study addresses the possible impacts of the sea level rise scenarios described in the Wadden Sea Plan 2010 of the Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Areas (MELUR) on the breeding birds of the Halligen, the small marsh islands which do not have a protective dyke.

The expert report was compiled on behalf of WWW Germany and is part of the research study “Land unter im Wattenmeer“.

Coastal birds breed in exceptionally large numbers and high densities on the Halligen in the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea and these populations are of considerable importance both nationally and internationally. With around 4,500 breeding pairs, about 15 % of the total German oystercatcher population breed on the Halligen. The Sandwich tern colony on the Hallig of Norderoog represents a proportion of over 70 % of the German breeding population. Among other reasons, there is an exceptionally high breeding success on the Halligen due to a lack of ground-foraging predators.

In the future, the Halligen will be particularly affected by sea level rise, resulting in more frequent flooding. This will impact the people living there but also the avifauna and in particular the breeding birds due to changing structures and habitats.

As well as more frequent flooding representing an imminent threat for nests and young birds, indirect results of rising sea levels may also cause risks. Among these are coastal protection measures like embankment reinforcements which enable mammalian predators (foxes, mustelids and others) to reach the Halligen. Modifications in agricultural land use will also result in structural and partly negative changes.

The main objective of this study is to describe possible future or already apparent impacts of climate change on the breeding birds. Possible solutions to protect these birds are identified. The study aims to contribute to the development and assessment of suitable measures and to provide guidance for necessary further investigations. Sources of literature were evaluated and locals and experts interviewed. The study addresses both the inhabitants of the Halligen and stakeholders in nature conservation and coastal protection.

The study was funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) within the framework of the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (Deutsche Anpassungsstrategie, DAS), measures for adapting to climate change (funding priority: community lighthouse projects).

It was part of the “PiKKoWatt – pilot measures for adaptation to climate change with communities in the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea region” project.

You can download the research study "Land unter im Wattenmeer. Auswirkungen des Meeresspiegelanstiegs auf die Natur der Halligen und Möglichkeiten zur Anpassung" from the website of the WWF Germany.

funding period: January 2016 to March 2018

Funding ID: 03DAS049


Andrea Maier

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Conservation and restoration of moist and wet dune slacks within the SCI (Habitats Directive) “Dünen St. Peter”

Aim of the project was to develop water management measures to maintain and improve the conservation status of the humid dune slacks of the SCI “St. Peter Dünen”.

On the western mainland coast, the dunes on the outermost tip of the Eiderstedt peninsula are unique but meanwhile far removed from the original characteristics due to nutrient inputs, urban sprawl, drainage and afforestation.

Humid dune slacks are of particular importance for the conservation of biodiversity. They are typically located low enough to be groundwater-dependent. Very distinctive types of vegetation develop depending on the degree of saturation with water as well as water hardness and salinity. The focus of the report is on these dune slacks which are now hardly to be found on the German mainland coast.

Proposed measure for the conservation and promotion of biodiversity in humid dune slacks differ depending on location and vegetation. These include targeted water management to promote moist deciduous forests in the northern part and, in individual cases, tree and shrub removal measures or the creation of soil seed banks in the southern part.

The expert report was prepared on behalf of the Regional Nature Conservation Agency (Untere Naturschutzbehörde) of the district of North Frisia.

funding period: 11/2018 - 01/2019


Anna Backes

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Supervision of heathland development measures

In September 2018, BioConsult SH supervised re-naturalisation measures in heathland areas.

Heaths are a product of human activities. Over time, these areas have become a habitat for numerous endangered plant and animal species. Due to structural changes in agriculture, heathland areas were increasingly neglected and traditional management has been discontinued resulting in ecological succession. Typical heathland species like common heather or cross-leaved heath gradually disappear.

The heath development project of the Dithmarschen district (“Heideentwicklung in Dithmarschen”) of the Bündnis Naturschutz in Dithmarschen e. V. (alliance for nature conservation in the district of Dithmarschen) develops and implements measures to protect, promote and ecologically develop the remaining local heathland areas. Degraded heathland complexes shall be transformed into active European dry heaths (Natura 2000 code 4030; BTK-SH “TH” – biotope mapping of sites of ecological interest in Schleswig-Holstein, biotope type: dry sand heaths). One of the two measures accompanied by BioConsult SH was carried out within an area of degraded inland dunes (Natura 2000 codes 2310 and 2320; BTK-SH “TB” – biotope type: dry heaths on inland dunes dominated by dwarf shrubs)

Area with wild black cherry before the measures.
The same area after shrub removal and removal of the humus-rich surface layer of the soil.

In September 2018, turf-cutting (removal of the humus-rich surface layer of the soil) and shrub removal measures were carried out in several areas. The measures mainly aimed to fight wild black cherry as well as moor grass and wood small-reed. A small-scale mosaic of open patches for recolonization by heath plants and structures (e. g. remaining patches of heathland) was created within the managed areas with numerous boundary structures providing habitats for a large number of typical heathland species like the adder.

BioConsult SH's task was to ensure that measures to fight the target species within the managed areas were carried out as effectively as possible with the least possible impact (preservation of the topographical relief, consideration of relevant species and nature conservation requirements).

Ecological monitoring and supervision included:


Frank Schulze

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The hazel dormouse – habitat fragmentation and concepts for protection

Hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius)

South of the Kiel Canal, BioConsult SH investigates populations of the hazel dormouse (Muscardinus avellanarius) in several smaller and larger project areas. Aim is to develop specific possibilities for action in case of interventions in the habitat of this species.

Like the edible dormouse, the hazel dormouse belongs to the group of dormice and is the only species of this family native to Schleswig-Holstein. The population in Schleswig-Holstein is located at the northwestern limit of the European range.

Hedgerows are the typical habitat of the hazel dormouse in Schleswig-Holstein.

Here, the critically endangered species mainly lives in the hedgerows of farmland southeast of the Kiel Canal with an often small-scale distribution. Hazel dormice show extensive site-fidelity and rarely move along the ground. Even gaps of more than 20 m in woody structures may be a barrier which is hard to cross. This species is therefore especially vulnerable to changes of the habitat.

An opened dormouse nest tube.

Gaps in hedgerows and woody structures are for example the result of the construction of access routes for wind turbines. A practical guideline for hazel dormice issued by the state authority for nature and the environment Schleswig Holstein (LLUR) therefore especially aims to avoid conflicts with legally required species protection in the implementation of development projects.

To check for presence in the respective area, about 600 (as of 2020) dormouse nest tubes were deployed. The nocturnal animals occupy these tubes in summer and can then easily be detected. The current condition of hedgerows in the area is documented additionally to determine the suitability as a habitat for dormice.

A concept for measures to maintain hazel mouse habitats will be developed in areas with evidence of the presence of hazel dormice when woody structures are fragmented. This may involve adapting route planning, planting of suitable shrubs as supplementary food source or habitat and/or setting up of nest boxes.


Sonja NoellAnna Backes

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