Vegetation ecology

When it comes to creating wildlife habitat corridors, most people tend to think about animals first because animals are capable of active movement and will thus profit directly from habitat-connecting measures. However, to evaluate the success of any conservation measures, it is also vital to look at the spread of vegetation. The existence of particular plant species determines whether a managed site can succeed as a habitat and migration route for particular animals. In addition, the plant species themselves also benefit when there is a greater area of habitat suitable for colonisation. Rare and endangered plant species are mostly specialists that depend on particular and distinct biotopes (heathlands and oligotrophic grasslands for instance) which today have often become fragmented and stand isolated within the wider landscape.

The development of particular plant species on managed sites and adjacent stepping stones or corridors is being investigated as part of a doctoral thesis by biologist Kerrin Müller at the Christian-Albrechts-University of Kiel, and a concept for large-scale monitoring of habitat connection measures is being developed. In spring of 2011 the first permanent observation plots were established. In addition, the spread of selected target species in the area around the wildlife green bridge at Kiebitzholm is being explored. Among plants being monitored is maiden pink (Dianthus deltoides), a heathland and oligotrophic grassland species endangered in Schleswig-Holstein.