Ecologically valuable areas at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

Ecologically valuable areas at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research

As early as 1990, the former board of directors decided to preserve ecologically valuable structural elements on the 17-hectare institute grounds and to create conditions for the development of biotope forms with diverse biotic communities through different locations. A concept in constant development.

The ecological core area of the Institute's grounds is a mixed stand of old trees with a high proportion of deadwood, ruins of the Prussian fortification wall and an open interior area. This protected landscape component also includes the farmstead of the Vogelsang estate, which belongs to the institute and is surrounded by farmland, with its old trees. The protected areas merge into the outdoor facilities of the institute, which have been designed close to nature with different types of biotopes, a teaching garden with cultivated plants and orchards. The biotopes are interlinked to form a biotope network via the linear structural elements of field margins and hedges.

Seepage troughs, which are connected to the natural gravelly subsoil after removal of the loess layer, return the precipitation water directly to the groundwater. Instead of sealed surfaces, gravel turf was laid on the paved subsoil of fire brigade access roads and pathways to enable water infiltration and extensive planting. Ecologically valuable dry biotopes were created by mounding sand, gravel and clay in a spiral form, compacting it and sowing regional herbs typical of the site. Numerous species of wild bees and butterflies have found a new home here.

A green roof on the new large-scale laboratory building helps regulate the microclimate and promotes insect diversity. Precipitation from the roofs of the institute buildings is collected in two ponds and fed into the groundwater through pond edge overflow. Next to the lecture hall building, a reed bed has been developed on an area of 800 square metres by creating swampy loamy soils that are constantly saturated with water. Another wetland biotope, a 500 sqm pond with diverse riparian planting, provides an impressive backdrop on the south side in front of the cafeteria terrace. The riparian vegetation merges into wild herb meadows. These meadows do not require fertilisation, only occasional mowing, with the cuttings being removed to further leach the soil. 

The targeted positioning of woody plants structures the open space. Several dozen solitary trees and shrub-like groups of trees, including many species of wild roses, give the area a park-like character. A 70-metre-long avenue of high trunks of old apple varieties and two 3,000-square-metre orchards, each with 40 different varieties (apple, pear, plum, cherry), are now in the harvesting phase. Two heifers of the robust old cattle breed Galloway keep the vegetation around Gut Vogelsang short. Together with the grassland, they form their own ecosystem with new food niches and habitats for insects and birdlife.

The ecological upgrading of the grounds is to be experienced by the Institute's staff and visitors. As an extracurricular place of learning for environmental education and plant sciences, the Science Barn with its adjacent teaching garden makes an important contribution to this. Within the framework of the "Regionale" structural support programme, the near-natural area at the MPIPZ has been developed into the central area of the "Belvedere Landscape Park", a joint project of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the city of Cologne and the Institute.  

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