Composite corridors on agricultural land

Title of the overall project

Reduction of the barrier effect of agricultural areas by means of semi-open composite corridors

Implementation period

2016 - 2019

Brief description

With increasing energy demand, there are growing challenges to develop new forms of sustainable energy production to counteract (among other things) the emission of greenhouse gases as well as the consumption of limited resources of fossil fuels. One possible form of sustainable energy production is the production of biomass, which in turn can provide biogas or other energy sources (e.g. ethanol, oils) by biochemical-microbial means. Thus, in recent years, the cultivation of so-called "energy crops" such as corn has been steadily increasing.

However, the agricultural provision of renewable raw materials for energy purposes - in addition to the need for an increase in food production - has the effect of continuously increasing the pressure of use on agricultural land. However, if additional land is used for agriculture or if the use on existing agricultural land is intensified, this entails various risks. Examples include a progressive loss of biodiversity, leaching of nutrients (e.g. nitrate) into the groundwater, depletion of humus in the soil body, or emissions of climate-affecting gases (e.g. nitrous oxide) from corresponding agricultural areas.

In Germany alone, about four percent of grassland was converted into agricultural land between 2003 and 2008, partly as a result of intensified cultivation of energy crops. This intensification of agriculture also has problematic consequences for agroecosystems, e.g. a narrowing of crop rotations, the cultivation of monocultures, a removal of ecologically functional biomass and an increased use of pesticides.

In this project, funded by the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, it is investigated whether a reduction of the barrier effect can be achieved by combining flowering strips and thinned forest strips, thus improving the permeability of the landscape.

More specifically, it will be investigated whether flower strips can promote the establishment and spread of species of adjacent (extensive) open landscapes and, at the same time, whether flower strips can counteract a lateral nitrogen transport and an associated eutrophication of the open landscapes adjacent to energy crop fields.

For this purpose, a total of 10 flowering strips were established between maize fields and semi-open as well as closed forest edges in the study area of the Lüneburg Heath, on which investigations take place in all 3 years of the project duration.

Subject of the investigations are surveys on the occurrence and distribution of flora and fauna (especially of bees, butterflies, ground beetles and wolf spiders as well as all vascular plants), soil analyses, surveys on precipitation and soil water, as well as an investigation on the public perception of the flowering strips by the project partner Verein Naturschutzpark Lüneburger Heide (VNP).

Persons involved:

  •     Prof. Dr. Werner Härdtle (contact person, Institute of Ecology, Leuphana University Lüneburg)
  •     Swantje Grabener (Animal Ecology, Institute of Ecology, Leuphana University of Lüneburg)
  •     Simon Hein (Landscape Ecology, Institute of Ecology, Leuphana University of Lüneburg)
  •     Dr. Claudia Drees (University of Hamburg)
  •     Prof. Dr. Thorsten Aßmann (Institute of Ecology, Leuphana University of Lüneburg)

Funded by:

  •     Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with funds from the Federal Ministry for the Environment.