The development of meadows and rough-grazing in the Rhön is closely related to the history of our cultural landscape.

The first larger settlements were established around 500 BC when the Celts colonised the hilly landscape of the “Rhön”. In the period after Christianization the Rhön region was characterised by various types of far-reaching beech forests and was therefore referred to as “Buchonien” (‘Land of beech trees’) by the monks of Fulda. The main use type in the forests were pastures. In the following time numerous bad harvests, wars and epidemics led to strong varying settlement densities causing neglected villages and resettlements with increasing land demands. Therefore, the landscape of “Buchonien” developed into “Land der offenen Fernen” (‘land of open spaces’). While crop cultivation had a rather large share on spaces at lower altitudes, higher or steeper regions and areas far away from the settlements were cultivated extensively as rough pastures. On these sites, the husbandry of sheep played a larger role than dairy farming.

Even today, there are large-scaled areas of extensively cultivated (rough) grazing in remote areas within the grasslands. In these areas numerous Nardus grasslands, heaths or oligotrophic grasslands have developed due to the traditional cultivation over the centuries offering habitats for ground-breeding birds. Depending on their structure, they are either mown or grazed.

These extensively used grasslands are of great importance in the LIFE project. They offer especially good conditions for birds like the Red-backed Shrike, the Meadow and Tree pipits or the Whinchat. In those areas, their situation can be greatly improved. Because of this, the LIFE project wants to protect the pastures, offering habitats for birds and beautiful views for the human eye.

picture: LIFE team

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