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Conservation of the Schlossberg inadequate

Freiburg ecologists highlight the poor state of conservation of flora and fauna

Freiburg, Nov 24, 2017

Conservation of the Schlossberg inadequate

Conventional management of the Schlossberg displaces protected species such as the smooth snake. Photo: Lisa Gollent

Freiburg’s Schlossberg has a long history behind it as a largely treeless cultivated landscape.  In 1954, in order to preserve this and offer animals and plants a suitable habitat, the city of Freiburg declared it a conservation area.  Now, in a study, Nicolas Schoof, Lisa Gollent, Anna-Lisa Schneider, Prof. Dr. Uwe Eduard Schmidt and Prof. Dr. Albert Reif from the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources at the University of Freiburg have found that some of the protected species of flora and fauna on the Schlossberg are in a poor state of conservation, and recommended that in future their care should be more intensively attuned to the objectives of the municipal regulations that designate the site a conservation area.

Until the end of the 19th century, around twenty species of orchid were known to grow on the slopes of the Schlossberg.  The European praying mantis, a species of cricket, also found a home there.  In their survey of the open land – that is the areas that are free of development and woodland – the researchers clearly found that the extinction of these species can be attributed to more intensive agricultural use by humans at the start of the 20th century.  And after the city designated the hill as a conservation area, inappropriate care of the open land over subsequent decades had a negative effect on the diversity of animals and plants.

The forest has now advanced far into what was previously open land, making the Schlossberg as a whole far darker and restricting the habitat of many species.  Vegetation that scatters its fruits, which many animals rely on as a source of food, was reduced through a lack of tree maintenance.  In addition, today, conventional management of the vineyards, including using glyphosate, is displacing species such as the smooth snake and wall lizard, which are protected under European law.

The scientists show that the goals of the conservation area are therefore being inadequately met, and recommend management measures to restore the hill’s environment: for instance, by thinning the oak-rich tree stock and cutting back the bramble bushes at the edge of the woods.  The vineyards could be permanently grazed, leading to a reduction in use of pesticides.  The dry walls that stretch for several kilometers could be maintained by better care of the structural substance and associated vegetation, to encourage the reptile population.  Grassland grazing, for instance with cattle, could also contribute to keeping the land on the Schlossberg clear and thereby improving it in conservation terms as well as making it more attractive to visitors.  In their study, the scientists also take up the idea of reshaping the Schlossberg as a place of recreation, as was recently proposed by the local promoter, Freiburg Wirtschaft, Touristik and Messe GmbH & Co. KG.

Original publication:

Nicolas Schoof, Lisa Gollent, Anna-Lisa Schneider, Uwe Eduard Schmidt, Albert Reif: Der Schlossberg bei Freiburg i. Br. – eine naturschutzfachliche Bestandsaufnahme seines Offenlandes. In: Mitteilungen des Badischen Landesvereins für Naturkunde und Naturschutz.


Nicolas Schoof
Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources
Professor of Site and Vegetation Science
University of Freiburg
Tel.: +49 (0)761 203 8622