In November 2014, more than 60 interested individuals – including representatives from agriculture, forestry, nature conservation and the local authorities, as well as nature park guides – accepted an invitation from the Saxon branch of the German Association for Landscape Conservation (DVL-Landesverband Sachsen e.V.), the Mittleres Erzgebirge Landscape Conservation Association and the Erzgebirge/Vogtland Nature Park to attend a workshop on hedgerows at the Königswalde district court hall. At the event, the attendees discussed the future of the hedgerow landscape in the central Erzgebirge. Christina Kretschmar from the Saxon branch of the DVL led the morning session, which consisted of five presentations.
Elmar Fuchs from the engineering group Ingenieurgruppe Chemnitz GbR provided information on the importance of briar-rich hedges, particularly for birds. The biologist has been observing the birdlife in the landscape of the central Erzgebirge for over 20 years. Over 25 bird species currently breed in the area around the Pöhlberg mountain, including protected species such as red-backed shrikes, whitethroats and yellow buntings.
He advised attendees that regularly thinning out and cutting back the hedges is important to maintain biodiversity. This prevents the hedges from developing into trees, a process which may already be advanced. This conservation-oriented hedgerow rejuvenation is primarily coordinated by the landscape conservation associations. The Mittleres Erzgebirge Landscape Conservation Association has done a great deal of work over the past 20 years to convince landowners, conservationists, those working on the land and the general public of the benefits of hedgerow maintenance for agriculture and biodiversity.
Applying for EU funding for hedgerow maintenance involves a huge amount of bureaucratic work, and according to Sirko Schwarzbach of the Saxon Ministry for the Environment and Agriculture (SMUL), it will not become any easier in future funding periods. Applicants such as the landscape conservation associations and nature conservation organisations can request funding for the maintenance of existing hedges and stone ridges or for the creation of new hedges under the Saxon Directive on Natural Heritage (RL NE). René Schubert from the German Association for Landscape Conservation reported on the harvesting and propagation of seeds from native tree stands, which he is coordinating in his DiverGen project. Because the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) will require the use of regional wood in open countryside from March 2020, the Mittleres Erzgebirge Landscape Conservation Association is harvesting these seeds from specially designated tree stands, such as stands of blackthorn, elder, buckthorn and rowan.
Seedlings from these plants are propagated in certified arboretums. They will then be used to plant new hedges after a few years. The presentations were followed by a tour of the fields of Mildenau, Königswalde and Geyersdorf. This gave participants a chance to view the hedgerow maintenance measures taken by the Mittleres Erzgebirge Landscape Conservation Association.
The presentations from the workshop can be downloaded here: