The main forest types of the Hainich region are not different to typical silvicultural systems in European regions, but two types of them are special and unique. These types are the natural forest and the selecting cutting forest owned by forest cooperatives.

Beech age-class-forest
The age class forests are mainly located in the Dün region in the north of the Hainich and in the community forest of Mühlhausen. These forest stands are characterized by homogeneous even aged stands and an intensive management.

Selection cutting forest
The selection cutting forest owned by the forest cooperatives is a type of management where only selected individual trees are cut. It represents a moderately intensive type of management creating uneven-aged stands. The management results in a very diverse stand structure of trees with different age.

Beech natural forest
The natural forest is an old-growth, uneven-aged (0-250 years) mixed deciduous forest which was a protection zone for a military shooting range from 1945 until 1990. It is located mainly in the Hainich National Park. Because of this the forest stands were not entered and no management is done.

Spruce (young timber)
The occurrence of spruce stands is rare in the Hainich region. These stands are not typical for sites dominated by lime stone. Spruce trees on lime stones sites suffer from an increased risk of being infected with red ring rot fungus (Heterobasidion annosum). Stands become unstable by age. Bark beetle infection is mostly a follow-on effect of fungal infection and leads to a complete loss of these stands. The current spruce stands are in the majority of cases of afforestation of former agricultural sites.

Further forest land use types, which could be find in the Hainich region:

Deciduous mixed stands, non beech
This is a typical tree mixture in stands on rich limestone soils with loess layer.

Uneven-aged forest
The Thuringian forest administration arranged a silvicultural program to convert stands of age class forests into uneven-aged stands, so-called “Dauerwald” (extensively managed continuous forest). In a forest system like the “Dauerwald” no clear-cuts are allowed, but at harvest many trees are left in the stand. This management regime will result eventually in a forest structure that is similar to the selection cutting system. Some continuous beech stands in the Hainich region are former stands of the selection system or composite forests (Mittelwälder) consisting of coppices and standards. In these stands the coppice were allowed to grow into the main canopy.

We choose the following forest land use gradient to set up the experimental plots:

Beech age-class-forest
•    thicket without shelterwood
•    pole wood
•    young timber
•    old timber
Selection cutting forest
Beech natural forest – old timber
Spruce (young timber)


Compared with the forest region, the extent of grasslands is relatively small and dispersed, because they are under a pressure of land-use change to arable land or forest. Most grassland is managed by agricultural cooperatives. Only a small proportion of the grasslands are managed by single private farmers. Private shepherds are involved in the extensive management of sheep-grazed pastures.



Unfertilised pastures grazed by sheep, cow or horse

A high proportion of sheep-grazed unfertilised pastures are located on former military fields or on dry grassland sites with marginal yield. Some farmers and agricultural cooperatives which manage unfertilised pastures are certified with an organic cachet. A high proportion of the unfertilized pastures with cow and horse grazing are maintained by scrubbing and mulching in the late autumn or early spring. Horse grazing is uncommon and mainly on small pastures. There are three stables, but only two of them manage pastures larger than 1 ha.


Unfertilised mown pastures grazed by sheep, cow or horse

These meadows differ from the unfertilized pasture in that they are mown once or twice per year, depending on weather and climate conditions or on the agro-environmental scheme in which the farmer takes part (e.g. KULAP). These programs may determine the time of mowing, e.g. a late mowing with the beginning of June. This land use type is also typical for farmers or agricultural cooperatives with an organic cachet.


Fertilised mown pastures with cow, sheep or horse grazing

Fertilised mown pastures with cow grazing are the most common and conventional form of grassland management in the Hainich region. They are mostly grazed by mother cows and calves or by young cattle. This kind of management is also funded by an agro-environmental scheme called KULAP.


Unfertilised meadows

Unfertilised hay meadows are owned and managed mainly by private farmers. These meadows are generally very small in size (<1ha), and are mostly located in the surrounding of villages. In the region was only one land user who owned an unfertilised meadow larger than 3 ha. This meadow was in a reserve zone for sulphur spring near the city of Bad Langensalza and fertilisation was prohibited.


Fertilised meadow (with 1-4 cuts per year)

Meadows with a frequent mowing regime and intensive fertilisation (liquid manure) are very rare in the Hainich area. We could find two farms with such a management. Their fields are located in the south of the Hainich near the cities Eisenach and Gotha. Further enterprises with more extensively cultivated meadows are located north of the Hainich. These meadows are characterized by at most two cuts and low fertilisation.


Further grassland land use types, which could be find in the Hainich region:

Orchard meadows

The most orchard fields belong to communities. They are often managed by private people by sheep grazing or mowing.

Wet grasslands

This form of land use type is rare. Farmers can obtain support by agricultural funding programs to compensate the disadvantages of managing these sites.

Juniperus formation

The Juniperus formations are located near the village Craula (Craulaer Wacholder-Hög), mostly at steep slopes. These sites are listed and protected habitats in Thuringian nature conservation law (§18).

Fallow land

These sites are mainly located in the Hainich National-Park. They were used as military-training-areas (tank driving). No future management is planned for these fields. They are in various stages of succession and are characterized by regeneration of shrubs and occurrence of typical pioneer tree species.


We choose the following grassland land use gradient for installing the experimental plots:


•    Pastures grazed by sheep unfertilised

•    Pastures grazed by cattle unfertilised

•    Mown pastures grazed by cattle unfertilised (1-2x mowing)

•    Mown pastures grazed by sheep fertilised (1-2x mowing)

•    Mown pastures grazed by cattle fertilised (2-3x mowing)

•    Meadows unfertilised (1-2x mowing)

•    Meadows fertilised (2-3x mowing)