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Linking sustainable practices throughout Europe

Bergwaldprojekt, involving volunteers to protect and conserve forests in mountain areas in Germany

Rural topic(s): Sustainable forestry

Type: Success story

Date of writing: March 5, 2020

Author(s) of this page: Lena Gärtner

Organization(s): Bergwaldprojekt e.V.


© Bergwaldprojekt : Project weeks

The Bergwaldprojekt’s aim is to protect, to conserve, to tend the forest, especially the mountain forest and the cultural landscapes, and to help people understand the connections in nature, the issues of the forest and the dependence of man on these natural resouces. That is why the Bergwaldprojekt works with volunteers in organized project weeks in forests, bogs and open land biotopes at various places in Germany. The goals of the project weeks are to conserve the various functions of the ecosystems, make participants aware of the importance of our natural sources of life and that they are threatened, convince the general public of a sustainable use of the natural resources.



Bergwaldprojekt e.V., Germany is a registered association aiming at protection, conservation, tending the forest, especially the mountain forest and the cultural landscapes, and helping people to understand the connections in nature, the issues of the forest and the dependence of man on these sources of life.

Importance of mountain forests

Bogs: a cultural landscape

Near-natural mountain forests in the low mountain ranges and the Alps in Germany, Austria and Switzerland protect against erosion, flood, drought, falling rocks and avalanches. Together with bogs they play an important role for the climate. Forests clean the air and store carbon. Natural mountain forest communities are biocenoses for very many species and therefore are an importannt source for biodiversity. Besides they are valuable rest and recreation areas and economic goods for man. More than half of Germany consists of mountain areas, which are largely forested.


For decades, the forests have been weakened by high pollution from traffic, industry and agriculture. Besides the damages on leaves and needles of the trees, the pollutants acidify soils long-term and damage the fine root system of the trees. The forest ecosystems are also damaged by the massive nitrogen fertilization of the fields. Excessive hoofed game populations (roe deer, red deer and chamois in the mountains) are still eating too many seedlings. Because of hunting and forestry errors, many forests are labile monocultures, which are especially susceptible to windthrow and insects. The impacts of climate change have been putting extra stress on forest ecosystems for years. Lacks in the forestry practice such as the overuse of the stocks and the soil compaction damage the forest communities explicitly.

We have to do everything necessary to cut back the stress on forest ecological systems and to stabilize our forests. The forest can adapt itself to a change in environment only long-term. Natural forest communities are the best starting point for that to happen. Transforming a forest in favor of indigenous tree species as well as an ecological forest use and hunting practice increase the variety and stability of what have been non-natural forests.

Activities: project weeks

Volunteers working in the forests

Main activities during the project weeks: young stands are planted and tended, soil erosion control systems are installed, steep tracks and paths are constructed, biotopes are cultivated and bogs and brooks are re-naturalized. The non-profit works are implemented in public forests and nature reserves in cooperation with local forestry and conservation authorities only.

Every project week is planned, organized and supervised on site by an experienced and skilled forester employed by Bergwaldprojekt. This project leader is supported by trained group leaders that work in an honorary capacity. Bergwaldprojekt offers project weeks for adults and school pupils, parent-child projects and integrated weeks as well as corporate-volunteer-days.

Bergwaldprojekt is financed by sponsoring memberships and private donations, fees of the project partners, fees of companies as well as funding from governmental and non-governmental organizations.

Bergwaldprojekt international

Bergwald projects are organised and carried out by partner organisation in: Switzerland, Austria, Spain


contact deriving from the participation in the conference “Toblacher Gespräche”, 27.-29.9.2019, IT


Lena Gärtner, email: lg(a)bergwaldprojekt.de

Stephen Wehner, email: sw(a)bergwaldprojekt.de

Website: www.bergwaldprojekt.de/


Scale of intervention : Regional

Keywords: voluntary work, conservation and management of natural resources, Information / Education for sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, improvement of biodiversity, sustainable woodland, woodland creation, ecosystem friendly methods

Places: Germany

Actors: volunteers, NGO

Methods: voluntary work, outdoor learning, (youth) camps