Biodiversity and ungulate management in managed forests – A short description of the BioWild-Project objectives
To get to a more objective and fact-based debate related to the equilibrium of forest regeneration, forest biodiversity and ungulate population densities the BioWild-Project was set up as a multidisciplinary joint research cooperation between the Universities of Dresden, Gottingen, Munich and the ProSilva Germany association (Arbeitsgemeinschaft Naturgemäße Waldwirtschaft) as lead partner. The project is supported by numerous partners such as forest practitioners, nature and environmental protection agencies, hunters, forest owners, researchers and wood-processing industries.
The project period is from 15 September 2015 to 31st August 2021. The six-year project budget is about 2.47 million €, of which 1.89 million € are financed by the German National Biodiversity Program with funds of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) with resources of the Federal Ministry of Environment (BMU). The remaining 0.58 million € are financed by the four network partners.
Because there is no reliable scientific data available for ground vegetation under a “given” ungulate population the BioWild-Project wants to assess within a six-year period the equilibrium state in between natural forest regeneration and the browsing influence of hoofed game, taking into account the specific characteristics within different representative regions in Germany. The regularly taken records of the state of the ground vegetation will allow researchers to come to objective conclusions about the balance between forest vegetation and ungulate populations, allowing the project members to develop general forest and game management concepts for addressing and solving these issues. Guiding principles for policy and decision support will be formulated.
To find ways to secure the future of mixed, stable and resilient forests and the resulting ecosystem services, new strategies for creating and maintaining a balance between natural forest vegetation and ungulates will be tested across five pilot regions in Germany.
To create variance within the data set, the five BioWild-Project regions – covering about 25.800 ha of forest lands – are within the federal states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, North Rhine-Westphalia, Saarland, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. Those five pilot regions include state forest as well as communal and private forest lands; while hunting is done either by forest owners themselves or by external hunters leasing forest grounds. On this broad basis a gradient of hunting habits, topography, elevation and soil fertility of forest sites etc. might be detected and hopefully representative results for most German forest sites will be obtained – linking individual biodiversity parameters to browsing intensity.
All project partners agree on the fact that forest proprietors as owner of the shooting right and the hunters as hunting tenant should work closely together to achieve a defined and formulated silvicultural objective. This particularly means that they both need to talk to each other to find jointly agreed solutions. To promote communication among all actors hunting activities in the project sites are accompanied with an intensive communication process.
Regulations, each based on the local hunting legislation of the five implicated federal states had been modified in favor of the project objectives, promoting a synchronization of hunting periods for all game species. This measure will improve the legal situation for all hunters and forest owners who want to reduce excessive ungulate populations in forest ecosystems. If those new hunting possibilities are implemented – or not – and how hunting is exercised (individual hunting, driven hunt, etc.) remains within the unique responsibility of each hunter – only restricted by animal welfare and wildlife biology expertise. Within the breeding season and in late winter all hunting activities are prohibited with those new rules.
The results of this research will contribute to a rising awareness within the nationwide (and hopefully trans-boundary) public opinion, particularly within the group of forest owners since diverse and species rich forest ecosystems crucially contribute to maintain biodiversity, to help connecting biotopes, to protect our climate and to provide environmental services. Robust and diverse ecosystems also generate steadily stable revenues for forest owners at a much lower risk.
Based on project observations the project members will demonstrate to the public, and to the participating forest owners in particular, which immediate and long term effects (ecological and economic) their decisions have on silvicultural issues or hunting. For this purpose, the project results will be processed as easily understandable demonstration sites in the pilot regions. They will serve as excursion and field day destinations for forest managers, hunters, experts as well as the general public. Further, the demonstration sites are also of importance in the wider European context. A number of countries are currently revising their hunting policies for mitigating the ungulate effects in forest ecosystems. The BioWild-Project and its demonstration sites serve as point of reference.
For more information, please contact:
M. Hans VON DER GOLTZ
ANW Deutschland e.V.
Wormbacher Str. 1
Telephone: + 49 29 72 / 98 49 379