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Sheep and goats on the Schlossberg

Cooperation between the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources and the Fortbildungs-Akademie des Deutschen Caritasverbands

Freiburg, Jun 29, 2017

Sheep and goats on the Schlossberg

Nicolas Schoof (left) initated the pasturing project on the Schlossberg – and found a willing project partner in Dirk Sichelschmidt. Photo: Max Orlich

A former park on the Freiburg Schlossberg, around one and a half hectares large, half meadow and half forest - In the summer months it will in the future be the home of three sheep and five goats. It is on this space that the University of Freiburg's Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources is working with the Fortbildungs-Akademie des Deutschen Caritasverbands - owner of the land - on this pasturing project. "The project combines not only research, teaching, and ecology - it also creates a new dimension of experience for visitors to the Fortbildungs-Akademie and all the people from Freiburg and the region," says Nicolas Schoof, doctoral student at the Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources who initiated the project and is working on it together with remedial teacher Ann-Kathrin Klotz and with Christoph Baumeister from the Baden-Württemberg forestry experiment and research establishment.

"For the Fortbildungs-Akademie, this project is potentially very valuable," says Dirk Sichelschmidt, who as deputy director of the Fortbildungs-Akademie is also responsible for quality and environmental management. The Fortbildungs-Akademie welcomes some 24,000 conference and overnight guests and is one of five Caritas organizations in a pilot group which received the European Union's EMAS certificate in June 2017 for their environmental management. The pasturing project is one example of sustainable use of land, and plays an important role. Initial impressions from the academy: "The animals are popular with our guests and our employees in different ways," Sichelschmidt says. One planned measure is a survey of the guests to obtain more precise information about how they perceive the environment.

For students, there are many ways to take part in the project. The first student assignment aimed to establish the state of vegetation on the area before the start of the project. "Among other things, we will be able to observe how the flora and fauna there change in the long term as a result of the animals' grazing," says Schoof. The meadow with long grass, moss, and almost completely overgrown soil was in the transition zone to the forest - if it had been left alone, bushes and trees would have grown there within a few years. In the forest there were hollow trees and dead wood, which are valuable ecological niches; but it was quite dark. After just a short period of pasturing, obvious changes have occurred. In the meadow, the grass has a mown look, and the soil has been loosened by the passage of hoofs. It seems likely that blackberries, nettles, and mosses will give way to more flowering plants, which attract insects. These in turn could lure species like the smooth snake, lizards, and bats to the area. In the forest, bark on many of the trees has been gnawed and small shoots have been eaten. In the long term it's expected that this will create a habitat for light-loving forest species.

But there are more environmental measures to be taken which students can participate in. They could make a pond for amphibians, a cairn of stones for lizards, or a "hotel" of wooden hiding places for wild bees. And there are many more ideas - from information signs for visitors to an educational environmental experience path for children and for guests at the Akademie alike, Schoof and Sichelschmidt say. "The enthusiasm and the will to exploit the potential of this area are tremendous."

The University of Freiburg student council has provided 1700 euros in funding for the pasturing project - funding an electric fence and the cost of buying the animals from an adventure farm in the Neckar Valley. The animals are the rare Waldschaf sheep, Tauernscheck goats, and a Nera Verzasca goat - all endangered breeds. The plan is for them to live in the area on the Schlossberg from April to October, and to spend the winter with a local shepherd.

Nicolas Schoof
Faculty of Environment and Natural Resources
University of Freiburg
Phone 0761/203-8622

Dr. Dirk Sichelschmidt
Fortbildungs-Akademie des Deutschen Caritasverbands
Phone 0761/200-1702