Hessische Rhön – Mountain grassland, rough grazing and their birds

The project area consists of the Special Protection Area „Hessische Rhön“ (SPA 5425-401) and the embedded Natura 2000 sites (SAC5325-305, 5325-308, 5525-351, 5323-303) as part of the Rhön Biosphere Reserve designated by UNESCO. The low mountain range has mainly been shaped by volcanism during the early Tertiary, and features divers mosaics of habitats in a historically developed cultural landscape. The share of grassland is above average, and the height difference in the SPA is more than 650 m.

The management of Natura 2000 grasslands aiming at habitat types, bird species and the Marsh Fritillary will be re-organised, both with short- and long-term effects.

Nature conservation and agriculture will together develop and realise workable solutions, also considering the individual operational situation of the full-time and part-time farms.

The LIFE-project aims to improve the quality of the habitats of grassland birds, like Whinchat, Corncrake or Common Snipe, and the Marsh Fritillary.Moreover, they want to restore or establish Mountain hay meadows, species-rich Nardus grasslands, seminatural dry grasslands and lowland hay meadows.

To achieve these aims measures of type A will create the conceptual basics for measures type C which constitute the core of the project (also financially). They aim to establish Natura 2000 grasslands and to optimise the habitats for bird species or the Marsh Fritillary. Measures type D will analyse the efficiency of C and E measures, who encourage public relations work. Finally, measures type F include project management and the After LIFE Conservation Plan.

The Rhön is one of the hotspots for biological diversity in Germany. With its unusual variety of mosaic-like scenery structures it creates an important habitat complex for bird species of the mountainous open land.
Structures like extensively used pastures, mountain hay meadows or mat-grass swards and a closely branched network of semi-natural water courses, marsh meadows and source marshes, as well as different special locations, for example rock piles and bogs, are of extraordinary importance for grassland birds.
But the LIFE project: “Hessische Rhön – Mountain grasslands, rough grazing and their birds" does not only aim to increase and stabilize the population of birds but also of the endangered Marsh Fritillary, a butterfly appearing in the “Rote Moor”.
Even though the reasons why the species are under threat of extinction are as high as in any other middle range mountains, the species still exist with above-average frequency so that the opportunity for species survival as well as stabilizing and increasing the population is very good.

The importance of the Rhön is in the unusual variety of mosaic-like scenery structures. They are wide coherent living space complexes. With reference to the important kinds of birds for the LIFE-project in the meadowland there are the following structures of higher importance: mountain hay meadows, lowland hay meadows, species-rich Nardus grasslands, semi-natural dry grasslands and a strictly branched net of close to nature assemblyline waters, marsh meadows and source marshes as well as different special locations for example like rock piles and bogs.

The biodiversity of the agrarian scenery is eurowide the most threatened from all ecosystems. The project delivers an model for protection and development of the biodiversity that is able to be delivered to other middle range mountains in Europe altogether. 


Farmers are particularly encouraged to take part in the LIFE project. They can bring their land and their meadow species into the project through its utilisation. Further, they take part in the nature conservation measures, and in certain cases, they can lease their lands to the county on a long-term basis in order to insure the maintenance and protection of the habitats.
They invest their agricultural expert knowledge in the grassland concept NATURA 2000 (A.4) and in the implementation of the measures C.1 – C.5. Therefore, they predominantly help to implement the measures C.1 – C.5. Additionally, they are active in the progressive thinker group (E.6) and can acquire further NATURE 2000 knowledge and become experts in botany and habitat maintenance in the Rhön.


Hunters are very welcome to provide detailed information and support in fighting predators. A round table with the county key people in hunting, conservation, and agriculture is available for communication and exchange once a year. It is a place to agree on common procedures and to assess the interim results.

The County of Fulda

The departments of nature and landscape, agriculture and the Rhön Biosphere Reserve of the county of Fulda put its extensive experience, knowledge and participant skills into the LIFE Project. They also assist in expert conferences and perceive the conservation of habitat types in parallel to other projects.

The Hessian Ministry for the Environment, Climate protection, Agriculture and Consumer Protection (HMUKLV)

HMUKLV is a project partner, particularly for the measure A.5 “Conflict settlement in the measure area Wasserkuppe”. Further, it ensures the expertise transfer from the LIFE project “Wetterauer Hutungen”. On top of this, the Ministry brings the project results into the arrangement of funding instruments for nature protection in Hesse.

Local authorities

The local authorities pool interests of the local inhabitants and arbitrate if necessary. Moreover, they provide venues and information about local players.

Tourism offices

The offices Rhön-tourism and tourist information Hilders promote and offer tours guided by nature and landscape specialists. On new trails will be information boards about special tours in the nature park in Nüsttal and Hilders. These information paths with content referring to NATURA 2000 are also applied for, and the infrastructure is maintained and serviced by a different organisation.


The Rhön is highly frequented by tourists; therefore, those visitors have to be addressed. Tourists can learn about NATURA 2000 and the meaning of the area. They need to consider the restricted walkways according to the routes and information, especially in the meadow breeding areas. In addition, they can use the plants identifier app and the Rhön hayfield online game.

Local population

The inhabitants of the Rhön can take part in opening and closing events, touring exhibition and guided nature and landscape tours. They can use the plants identifier app and the Rhön hayfield online game. The website and the leaflets are also available for them.

Quantifiable aims of the project

  • Restoration and new establishment of habitat typs on 160 ha like: Mountain hay meadows (6520), species-rich Nardus grasslands (*6230), seminatural dry grasslands (6212) and low hay meadows (6510).
  • On 65 ha new establishment of habitats for the Marsh fritillary (Euphydryas aurinia).
  • On 200 ha optimisation of habitats for meadow-breeding birds such as Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago), Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra) and corncrake (Crex crex)
  • Enlargment by about 20% of extensively used sites in habitats of the bird species Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio) and Northern Shrike (Lanius excubitor) as well as the Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis) to a minimum of 80 ha.
  • On 500 ha optimisation of rough grazing for meadow-breeders and shrike species.
  • Establishment of 20 feeding ponds for the Black Stork (Ciconia nigra).
  • In summery, 1005 ha habitats for species will be restored, new established or optimised.