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Flood plain meadows

Restoration of Flood Meadows along the Northern Upper Rhine.


Involved scientists: Dr. Stephanie Bissels, Dr. Tobias W. Donath, PD Dr. Klaus Handke, Dr. Norbert Hölzel, Prof. Dr. Dr. Annette Otte

Project period: 2000 - 2005

Keywords: Flood plain grassland, Flood plain meadows, Litter transfer, Nature conservation, Restoration


Project description:

Since October 2000 a project aiming at the recovery of rare floodplain-meadows has been taking place in the municipality of Riedstadt, which is situated 40 km south-west of Frankfurt in the Holocene floodplain of the northern Upper Rhine. Both types of floodplain-meadows occurring in Riedstadt (alliances Cnidion on rich alluvial soils and Molinion on rare nutrition-low soils which are the result of former extraction of clay for building purposes) are protected according to appendix 1 of the Flora-Fauna-Habitat directive of the European Union. The floodplain-meadows at the Hessian Upper Rhine are inhabited by a large number of rare and endangered species as e.g. Iris spuria, Arabis nemorensis, Cnidium dubium, Viola pumila or Iris sibirica, Gentiana pneumonanthe, Allium angulosum and Galium boreale.

The project pursues two main purposes: 1) the enlargement of species-rich floodplain-meadows by restoration of ex-arable fields and species-poor meadows and 2) the implementation of an agricultural utilisation system which enables long-term maintenance of the meadows.

The restoration area consists of 58 ha lined up along both sides of the main dyke of the Rhine, thus including areas in the functional floodplain as well as in the fossil floodplain. Aiming at species-enrichment diaspores are transferred with plant material from the existing species-rich floodplain-meadows onto the restoration fields with a loader-wagon (with pick-up, cutting knives and proportioning rollers), thus allowing quick and effective work. The transfer takes place in late summer/early autumn, when the majority of the target species bears ripe seeds. Due to a shortage of suitable hay we have to restrain the disposal to 10 to 20 % of the restoration fields; it usually is discharged onto the fields over the whole length in strips of 5 to 10 m width. In case of existing dense vegetation these strips are rotovaded prior to the disposal of plant material to diminish competition pressure and stimulate germination of the target species.

In order to establish an agricultural utilisation system local farmers were included from the very beginning of the project. Circumstances in Riedstadt are supporting the project as there is a high and long-term demand for hay to feed horses. This serves the conservational aims as horses need late cut hay, which in turn enables most of the target species to finish seed-production. Furthermore, a local shepherd is in need of pastures and hay, too, so that we are able to install a manifold utilisation system and explore its effects on the new flood-meadows. (Text: Matthias Harnisch)

Funding:Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN)

Further Information: Project Homepage (old), or Homepage of the City of Riedstadt