Area Information

The establishing Biosphere Reserve Schwäbische Alb covers more than 45,000 ha in the centre of the mountain range of the Schwäbische Alb in the state of Baden-Württemberg in SW-Germany. The Schwäbische Alb with its calcareous bedrock was formed during the tertiary, when the sediments of the Jurassic sea rose due to tectonic movements in the upper Rhine valley. The landscape is representative for a wide range of similar calcareous mountain ranges, which extend from the Franconian Alb in the NE to Swiss and French Jura mountains. It is characterized by a mosaic of forest and grassland, where grasslands generally have a relatively high proportion, mainly due to a many-century-long tradition of sheep herding. Forests range from natural old-growth beech forests over mixed forests to intensely managed spruce monocultures. Special forest types include park-like forests with many solitary trees created by century-long grazing, and untouched mixed forests in small canyons. Grasslands range from unfertilized pastures mainly grazed by sheep over unfertilized or moderately fertilized meadows to fertilized intensely used grassland. Forest and grasslands are interspersed with root crop fields, while hardly any cereals are cultivated in the area. The area has been characterized by low-intensity agriculture for many centuries.


The heart of the Biosphere Reserve is the former military training area Münsingen, which comprises 6700 ha of land. This area had been used as training area since 1895. The area has been largely untouched by agricultural intensification since 1895. However, while wide parts of its grasslands are grazed by about 12000 sheep, some intermingled pieces are fertilized. Moreover, the forests include old-growth beech forest as well as mixed forest and spruce monocultures. All these forest types are represented by stands of several ages, ranging from recent afforestations to > 100 years old. The exploratory will extend beyond this area with its mosaic of forest and grasslands, and will extend into the surrounding rural area, which is similar but with a much higher fraction of more intensively managed grasslands.

The exploratory is situated in the area surrounding the town of Münsingen. Typical grassland habitats include dry, calcareous grasslands, and intensive grassland. Forest habitats include typical beech forests, along with several plantations of pine, spruce and other species.

Source: based on ALK, TK25 © Landesamt für Geoinformation und Landentwicklung Baden-Württemberg
( Az.: 2851.9-1/19


Land use history of the Schwäbische Alb

The small-scale land use and the presence of historical land marks such as churches together with the detailed availability of maps from the first systematic land registry between 1820-1840 provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the land use history of the exploratory and the specific land use within and around specific plots. Historical land register maps stored on microfilm at the university library in Tübingen have been scanned, geo-referenced and matched to recent digital maps and other data. More than 15.000 historical field parcels in the vicinity of experimental plots have been digitized and characterized in their historical land use.

 Source: University library of Tübingen (Scan from Microfilm), original map sheets in town archive of Münsingen


Source: University library of Tübingen (Scan from Microfilm), original map sheets in town archive of Münsingen (upper level), Orthophoto by own surveying flight 2009 (lower level) and DGM25 © Landesamt für Geoinformation und Landentwicklung Baden-Württemberg (