Wild life conservation at Mercedes-Benz plant Gaggenau

The first organically certified industrial biotope in Germany is located on the grounds of the Mercedes-Benz plant in Gaggenau. In the Rastatt section of the plant it has now been possible to design an unused part of the grounds in an ecologically friendly manner, thus offering a new home for many endangered species. The joint project was successfully completed in collaboration with three specialist companies for near-natural landscaping, the Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union of Baden-Württemberg and the Environmental unit .

The 1,530 square-meter grounds of the former waste water treatment plant located directly next to the marsh sewer along an old arm of the Rhine that has meanwhile been leveled, is greening, blooming, fluttering and buzzing. What began with the demolition of the old treatment plant is a natural habitat for a variety of plants and animals today. Some species are endangered or even appear in the Red List. The close proximity to flowing water has enabled the resettlement of one of the endangered species of the 111-endangered-species basket of the Baden-Württemberg state government: the kingfisher, which was given an artificial nesting area, built especially for it on the river bank. "We want to offer employees the opportunity to directly experience the development of the plants and the relationships between the fauna and flora, and thus to make the subject of biodiversity more tangible in the highly sealed industrial site as well" said Dr. Matthias Jurytko, Head of the Gaggenau location.

Other important beneficiaries of the renaturation were the endangered insects and reptiles of Baden-Württemberg. Many species were able to find a home on the grounds, for example, the blue-winged grasshoppers, a strongly declining species of grasshopper, which lives in dry areas. To ensure that the planting remains patchy over the long term – as needed for their development --, wild flowers were only planted and not sown in the main area. In addition, using special forage plants for butterflies has enabled attracting species such as different families of blue butterflies, frittilary butterflies and moths. New habitats for the endangered species were created with structures in sunny areas, winter hiding places and sandy areas for egg-laying .

In addition, quite a few species from the 111-endangered-species basket of the State Government of Baden-Württemberg have also been resettled, including the wood bee, which nests itself in deadwood. The wild bees became the main target group of the conservation project. Through mapping it was established that 65 wild bee species are living on the 1,530 square- kilometer area. Half of these are endangered species. In Baden-Württemberg alone, there are 460 species, of which more than 60% are considered to be endangered. Their forage plants are also present in the newly designed area, along with nesting places for wild bees that were built by Mercedes-Benz employees. The nutrient-poor grassland, stone bars, deadwood tree trunks of the main grounds blend in well with wildflower borders created from different wild plants. A total of 2,700 local wild shrubs were planted in the mineral-rich soil of sand, crushed stone and gravel. They provide blossoms, seeds, hiding places, winter quarters and reproduction possibilities for the fauna. While the area was still being created, the first mason bees were already circling the newly positioned tree trunks, while sand bees were busy in the sand. Meanwhile, even the fist female sand lizards have settled among the layer of crushed rock provided especially for them. "The renaturation of the old sewage treatment plant was a complete success. The plants are developing very well and the fauna is taking up the offering. This is a low-maintenance project, and the work is taken care of by motivated employees“ said Ralf Gensicke, employee in Environmental Protection at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Gaggenau.

A great honor: After being honored as a UN Decade Project in 2013, in June 2015, the project was awarded for the second time!

The decision to renature an unused area of the plant kills several birds with one stone:

Near-natural areas are visually more attractive than uniformly green areas. And, with some eye for detail, you can discover life.

Less costly:
The building costs are lower. Using rain or surface water on the grounds as an enriching life element saves dewatering costs. This, in turn, provides a home for tree frogs.

Easier to take care of:
Natural elements are also associated with maintenance benefits. On average, 50-90% of the usual expenses are saved. There is much less mowing and cutting to do. Periodic fertilizing, mulching or new plantings to replace dead plants are totally eliminated. Less care is also needed as a result of the insects and seed eaters on the ground.

More alive:
In no time, a remarkable biodiversity has set in. Innumerable animal species are benefiting from the offering of local forage plants and hiding places. Every near-natural area is yet another stepping stone in the mosaic of a living settlement area.

More adaptable to disturbances:
Truck tracks, tread load, storage damage -- wild plants fix all of that by themselves. They are self-seeding and - in principle - immortal. Bare spaces are immediately reconquered. In particular, pioneer species like the Plantagineum (viper's bugloss) or Verbascum (great mullein) benefit from this.

Heat resistant and rainproof:
Our indigenous biotopes are weatherproof, also against the extreme conditions in previous years. They need no water computers and no drainage ditches. They repair any arising damage on their own right away.

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