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Measures to conserve the cultural landscape


Particularly on account of its military use and the fires which are allowed to burn on a regular basis, the hay meadows with spignel, and the heathland, of the kind that surrounded almost every village in the Hocheifel 200 years ago, have been able to subsist on the training ground at Elsenborn. These cultural landscapes came about in the Middle Ages as a result of deforestation of beech and oak woods and the subsequent shifting cultivation. Shifting cultivation is a form of slash-and-burn in which the turf layer is peeled off and burned and the ash used as a fertiliser. Grazing sheep prevented trees and shrubs from growing and kept these surfaces free. Various measures have been taken to preserve this unique cultural landscape on the military training ground and restore it. The principal and most effective method is the controlled burning off of certain areas. Every year in spring, before the breeding season, large areas are burned off on the Elsenborn military training ground by the military and forestry administration. This helps the heath to stay young, impedes the spread of pioneer plants such as broom and birch, and enables the growth of plant species whose seeds need to fall on bare soil in order to be able to germinate. On degraded areas of the heath which have a humus cover of several centimetres, the technique of sod lifting is used. The turf, rich in humus, is removed with an excavator, so that the seeds of the heathland plants present in the soil can germinate, even after 50 years. All these measures are carried out instead of the former extensive farming, and they now contribute to the conservation of the open heathland.


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Measures to conserve the cultural landscape
4750 Elsenborn