Volunteers from Münster, led by NABU – an IUCN Member and one of the country's oldest and largest environmental associations, have been working to preserve the region’s orchards and bring back the rich biodiversity they once supported.
In the countryside of the Münsterland Region in North Rhine-Westphalia, traditional orchards were planted centuries ago. They were situated directly behind farmhouses and provided farmers’ families and the inhabitants of the area with fresh fruit including about 3,000 varieties of apples. They also served as habitats for nearly 5,000 wild species, including the little owl (Athene noctua). Yet some 75% of the orchards were lost between 1950 and 1990 due to changes in farming and urban expansion.
At the same time, in the City of Münster and the surrounding countryside, plant species in particular were vanishing from the agricultural landscape due to the increasing intensification of farming. This was causing not only the loss of species, but also the loss of German culture and beauty. For example, poppies–the beautiful flowering field species which are the part of country’s identity–were disappearing.
Consumers recognize old fruit varieties which remind them of their childhood. They have become supporters of traditional orchards which are hotspots of German biodiversity. The amount of traditional orchards in Münsterland has increased and the population of the little owl has expanded. Traditional orchards are now not only the link between sustainable agriculture, production of healthy food and rich habitats for wildlife, but are also attractive recreational spaces for the local community.
NABU’s “Apple Day” and “Blossom Party” have become popular events, showing growing interest in protecting and promoting traditional orchards in Germany. A photo competition with the theme ‘Where have all the flowers gone?’ received nearly 4,000 pictures taken by more than 1,000 people. The campaign gained extensive publicity and pictures have been displayed in many places across Germany.
Fair prices are an incentive for farmers to conserve their orchards, and ensures that consumption of the orchards’ fruit contributes both to the protection of existing orchards and the planting of new ones. Every year NABU purchases 70 tons of apples, pears and plums from farmers to produce juice and 10 tons of fruit to be sold on the market.
This is one of 20 success stories from partners to IUCN's Countdown 2010 initiative which have helped to make a difference for biodiversity, highlighted in a new publication Made in Countdown 2010. At the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, one Countdown 2010 partner from those included in this publication will receive the Countdown 2010 Biodiversity Award. The prize aims to reward the best action for biodiversity within the Countdown 2010 network. All success stories and information can be found at: www.countdown2010.net/made-in-countdown.