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Snow stories - people from the region and what moves them

Mountain meadows

Winter sports area and species-rich mountain meadow at the same time ? This can be found in many places in the winter sports arena. As soon as it gets warmer, the ski slopes turn into natural paradises.

"Eye Willow": Extensive Management Ensures Species Richness

Cooperation: exchange of knowledge and experience between lift operators and nature conservation

Long stalks sway in the summer wind. Lush green as far as the eye can see, dotted with millions of colorful spots. The mountain meadows around Winterberg are a real "feast for the eyes". The most colorful month is June. Until then, the grasses, flowers and herbs are allowed to grow. From July 1, mowing is allowed, clearly dictated by the nature conservation status. In order to preserve the rare mountain meadows with their richness of species, the operators of the ski areas, farmers and nature conservation work together.

The protected mountain meadow and heath areas in the high-altitude core area of the Wintersport Arena Sauerland are home to rare plants and animals. The predominantly extensive cultivation of the slope areas in summer makes it possible to do without intensive agriculture. Here we find rare plants and animals, some of which have an alpine character and are special for a low mountain range.

Instead, a great deal of effort is being put into preserving the land created by traditional agriculture. This looks different today than it did 100 or more years ago. Today, no one can live from picking berries on the heath, tying brooms and feeding cattle with two hay harvests per summer. If man did not actively intervene and keep the areas open, mountain meadows and high heaths would soon disappear. Flowery, species-rich mountain meadows were a matter of course in the Hochsauerland in earlier centuries. They were created by the then common way of making hay as fodder for farm animals. Today, dairy cattle are hardly ever fed with hay, but with silage.

The meadows are heavily fertilized and mowed up to four times a year. Under these conditions only a few grass species and especially dandelions grow. The mountain meadows on the high plateaus of the Rothaargebirge are, along with occurrences in the Eifel, the most important in North Rhine-Westphalia. Without the use of liquid manure, artificial fertilizers or pesticides on the mountain meadows a hay of special and today rare quality. Rich in raw fibers and, depending on the type of meadow, with a high proportion of herbs. Only by mowing at the right time can the rare plants be preserved. Entrusted with these tasks and committed to this type of management are farmers like Christoph Schütte from Nordenau.

The largest and most beautiful mountain meadow areas in the Sauerland are located in and around the Neuastenberg, Altastenberg and Ruhrquelle ski resorts. There, typical plants such as forest cranesbill, black devil's claw, golden oat and soft pippa are found, as well as butterflies typical for this vegetation such as ducat fire butterfly, purple gold fire butterfly and dock green widow. Occurrences of the rare orchid orchid are also present.

Some of the hay obtained from the mountain meadows is purchased each year by ski area operators. If earthworks have to be carried out, such as the laying of pipelines, the construction of water intake shafts or buildings, the ground is covered with mountain meadow hay after these works are completed. The hay contains seeds of the typical flora. This ensures that precisely these plants will reestablish themselves in these places.

A foray through our mountain meadows

Protecting nature and raising people's awareness of it is also in the interest of Dr. Axel Schulte from the HSK Biological Station. The use of technical means takes place under careful consultation with nature conservation. Likewise possibilities of the development of the skiing areas and the building measures necessary for it, without damaging the flora and fauna.

The ski resorts existed more than 100 years ago. Winter sports in themselves do not harm the areas. The ski resorts have to be careful in the use of technology and in its further development. That is why all work taking place there in the Hochsauerland is accompanied by the Biological Station. "The preservation of habitats in winter sports areas is not a foregone conclusion," emphasizes Dr. Schulte. It needs continuous ecological construction monitoring, which is also required by law. The biologist clearly warns against plants that are introduced into areas by human intervention, spread there and displace the original vegetation. Even small, careless interventions in nature can have a big effect.

The mountain meadows are at the same time part of the landscape conservation area of grassland slopes and plateaus on the Winterberg plateau (Altastenberg, Neuastenberg, Langewiese, Hoheleye and Mollseifen). It was designated as a LSG by the district council of the Hochsauerlandkreis in 2004 and consists of open areas with grassland, which stand out from the wide areas mostly occupied by spruce crops. The areas are almost all used as mowing meadows. The aim is to safeguard the biodiversity of flora and fauna that has developed over centuries of agricultural use, as well as to preserve the traditional cultural landscape by actively keeping it open.

The areas of several nature reserves and landscape conservation areas have been part of the FFH area (Flora, Fauna, Habitat) near Winterberg since 2008. These include the nature reserves Bergwiesen bei Winterberg (near Ruhrquelle), Bergwiesen bei Altastenberg, nature reserve Brandtenberg and landscape conservation area Westfalenhang (both Altastenberg). Around Neuastenberg lies the nature reserve Bergwiesen bei Neuastenberg, nature reserve Odeborn-Talsystem, the landscape protection area Postwiese and Magergrünland bei Neuastenberg. The ski areas of Altastenberg, Neuastenberg, Langewiese and Ruhrquelle are subject to this protection status. Likewise, large parts of the Kahler Asten (Winterberg and Schmallenberg areas) with their heath landscape are designated as FFH areas. This concerns parts of the northern slope in the ski lift carousel Winterberg. (Cream slope?).

The protection of the protection of the species richness as well as recreational purposes serve. Numerous plants, which are on "Red List" of threatened species, grow there. Many popular hiking and biking trails, including the Rothaarsteig passes through there.

The mountain meadows that were once so typical of the high plateaus of the Sauerland region are now endangered by changes in land use. From 2011 to the end of 2016, the LIFE project Mountain Meadows near Winterberg was dedicated to restoring these habitats. The project aimed to bring the protected Winterberg mountain meadows to the public's attention, to ensure their preservation and to recruit more land for this extensive form of agriculture. Farmers organize the use of the mountain meadows in such a way that the plant and animal life is preserved. Because late mowing dates and fertilizer restrictions mean lower harvests, the farmers receive compensation for this from contractual nature conservation. The 756-hectare project area consists of the two FFH areas "Bergwiesen bei Winterberg" and "Oberes Orketal". The mountain meadows in the Rothaargebirge are the most important in North Rhine-Westphalia, along with occurrences in the Eifel.

Wintersportgebiet und gleichzeitig artenreiche Bergwiese ? Das gibt es an vielen Orten in der Wintersport-Arena. Sobald es wärmer wird verwandeln sich die Skipiste in Naturparadiese.