Germany — A former clay pit in Weitefeld in Rhineland-Palatinate, successfully returned to natureContext
The Wilhelm Pit was worked to extract clay sand between 1913 and 1998. Clay sand is an important raw material used in the manufacture of refractory products for the steel industry, foundries, power stations and waste incineration plants.
When extraction ceased in the late nineteen-nineties the original intention was to backfill and reafforest the pit before returning the site to the former owners of the woodland. However, conservationists realised that some rare plants and animals had become established on the pit site in the meantime. It was therefore decided to restore about 49 ha of the pit site to nature in order to promote biodiversity in the area.
The former pit was converted into a nature reserve in a cooperative exercise between Calderys, nature conservation bodies, local authorities and occupants of the forest.
- Backfilling of the pit, which had already begun, was halted and partly reversed.
- Steep slopes were levelled and trees and shrubs were cleared from the banks of a largish pond.
- Small, shallow ponds were created in sunny areas.
- Vegetation was cleared from overgrown rock faces and spoil tips
Valuable biotopes containing some endangered plants and animals have developed on the former extraction site. The State Environmental Protection and Industrial Control Agency has therefore classed the area a special protection area and proposed it as a future nature reserve.
- In total there are 11 plant species like orchids and aquatic plants that are on the ‘Red Lists’ of endangered species. Examples include Shoreweed (Littorelletea), Common Bladderwort (Lemno- Utricularietea) and Heath Spotted Orchid (Dactylorhiza maculata).
- A total of 12 amphibian species, some of them endangered in Europe, occur in the aquatic habitats. For instance, the Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) and the Yellow-Bellied Toad (Bombina variegata) are established here.
- The ponds are also home to several species of dragonfly, in particular the Four-spotted Chaser (Libellula quadrimaculata) and various darters (Sympetrum spec.).
- There are also some endangered bird species, such as the Little Ringed Plover (Charadrius dubius), and butterflies in this area. All in all, 24 endangered species have been counted.
The entire area was registered as a Flora-Fauna-Habitat (FFH) under the EU Habitats Directive in 2003.
This project is a good example of how environmental damage caused by mining can not only be made good, but a varied landscape with different structures can be created to provide a new habitat for a variety of species.
- RLP State Environmental Protection and Industrial Control Agency
- PLP State Geology and Mining Agency
- RLP North Structure and Licensing Department
- Altenkirchen District Authority Department of Nature and Environmental Conservation
- Weitefeld Local Authority
- Elkenroth ‘Ocupants of the Forest'