Wildlife and habitat conservation projects
Since the very beginning of our ecologically oriented route maintenance work, we have been initiating and supporting local wildlife and habitat conservation projects in the vicinity of our overhead lines.
Marscheid Forest – a refuge for reptiles
One example of this is the Hattingen-Ronsdorf route that traverses the Marscheid Forest in the east of the city of Wuppertal, along which we do our utmost to preserve and enhance the quality of the habitat specifically with reptiles in mind. The reason behind this is the fact that the smooth snake is on the red list of endangered species in North Rhine-Westphalia. Evidence was found in a very small area of our route of what was probably the last population of this species of snake in the Marscheid Forest. The people in charge at that time did some pioneering work and drew up a concept specially tailored to the needs of the snakes in what was one of the very first integrated vegetation management (IVM) plans.
Today, the open vegetation of this stretch of overhead power line offers the perfect habitat for this rare species of snake. The population has recovered and is now stable – an outcome that can largely be put down to our maintenance measures. The latest findings reveal that the smooth snake has in the meantime even spread to neighbouring areas. Over the years, a highly effective species protection concept has developed that in 2014 was awarded first prize by the Deutscher Verband für Landschaftspflege DVL (German Association for Landscape Management) in its “Exemplary Projects” category.
Blossoming gem: the meadows at Hirtenborn
Rare species of orchid in the Hunsrück mountain range also benefit from our IVM planning. The “Wiesen am Hirtenborn” nature reserve close to the Rhine Gorge at Bacharach is an ecological gem that is located immediately beneath an overhead power line. In May, numerous plant species typical of the region blossom here, among them species of orchid that are rare in this region of Germany nowadays, such as the broad-leaved and the green-winged marsh orchid or the white helleborine.
However, the annual splendour of the blooms at Hirtenborn is only possible because the flowers can fully utilise the special local conditions; thanks to the fact that the grass cuttings are removed along the overhead line route, the soil there is kept low in nutrients and therefore in the ideal state for these rare species to thrive. To this end, we continuously monitor the growth of the vegetation and maintain the area in accordance with the specifications of the IVM plan, which have been tailored right down to the last detail to the needs of these flowers so worth protecting.
The coppice – habitat to the hazel grouse
The hazel grouse, a woodland bird in danger of becoming extinct, is extremely shy and also perfectly camouflaged thanks to its grey-brown plumage. This makes it very difficult to find evidence of its presence in a habitat. Experts estimate there are around only 20 breeding pairs left in the country. Since the bird is highly sedentary and does not like relocating to other areas, it’s extremely important that we maintain and support the few existing preserves in North Rhine-Westphalia.
The Special Protection Area (SPA; in accordance with the EU Birds Directive) “Vogelschutzgebiet Wälder und Wiesen bei Burbach und Neunkirchen” in the south of the Siegerland has between 10 and 15 hazel grouse preserves that provide the species with an important habitat. This SPA, which covers an area of 4,660 hectares, is traversed by one of our overhead power lines. The line connects areas in which the Landesamt für Natur, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz Nordrhein-Westfalen (LANUV NRW) has repeatedly found proof of the presence of hazel grouse.
We do our utmost to implement the measures developed by the LANUV to protect the species in our IVM plan. As the hazel grouse prefers mixed woodland that offers sunny areas, an herbaceous layer with lots of ground-level hiding places and sufficient food, we focus on conducting localised maintenance measures designed to strengthen the structure in the former coppice stands. By cultivating slow-growing trees and bushes, we preserve potential habitats and valuable biotope network structures for this endangered species.