80 Years of Habitat Conservation in the Lower Oder Valley

Sumpfohreule The Lower Oder Valley's first protected areas were established in the beginning of the 20th century. In the 1980 large swaths of the flood plains near Schwedt were declared Wetlands of International Importance, in accordance with the Ramsar Convention. On the German side, the entire national park has been designated

  • a protected area ("Naturschutzgebiet"),
  • a Special Protected Area (SPA) for birds, in accordance with European criteria,
  • an International Bird Area (IBA) in accordance with international criteria,
  • and has been registered in accordance with the EU Habitats Directive (Natura 2000).

It is intended that the Polish Landscape Parks be registered with the EU Habitats Directive as well. In summary it can be said that, on the German side, the national park is protected in full accordance with international, European, national, and state environmental regulations.

The Project

Between the years 1992 and 2000 the German Federal Government and the state of Brandenburg supported the Lower Oder Valley as a Federal Major Habitat Conservation Project (Riparian Zone Project). The conservation guidelines for the project were specified by the Federal Government in the funding agreement with the state, and by the state in the funding agreement with the Association of Friends of the National Park. They outline ambitious conservation practices.

The Conservation Program

In the Lower Oder Valley, as in any national park, the natural processes of the ecosystem are given first priority. Nature should be able to follow its own course here. The National Park Law of 2006 allocates 50.1 percent of the National Park's total 10,000 hectares to this purpose, albeit without specifying a time frame for achieving this goal. So far, merely 1,351 hectares have been designated as wilderness area (Total Reserve Area, Zone I). No human interference is permitted there.

On the roughly 5,000 hectares which make up the remaining 50 percent of the area, extensive agriculture may continue with certain environmental restrictions. The land must not be worked before July 1st of a given year, or August 30th if there is a resident corncrake or aquatic warbler population. Neither may livestock density exceed an average of one livestock unit per hectare. No grazing is permitted at the edges of woods and water. In addition, varying strips of land are left unmowed to provide refuge for meadow-dwellers. Unlike in the wilderness areas, it is thus not primarily natural processes but also species that are being protected on these extensively farmed meadows and pastures. The focus is on a few prioritized species, such as the aquatic warbler, the corncrake, and cnidium.