Over the last 17 years, the University of Applied Science of Weihenstephan Triesdorf has been carrying out a yearly, week-long field project with students from the Forestry Faculty and the Faculty of Landscape Architecture. The aim is to collect data on species and habitats in the “Hoch-spessart” Natura 2000 site - a large beech forest in northern Bavaria - and develop management and restoration proposals for these species and habitats. Possible sources of funding are also identified to implement the measures proposed.
The findings are then presented to an assembly of local inhabitants, municipal authorities and elected officials who may own land within the Natura 2000 site. These meetings attract up to 100 participants and are usually picked up in the local media. 15 community and city forests have been surveyed in this way so far, some for the second time. The student projects have resulted in the construction or relocation of educational trails, the designation of strict forest reserves (the largest being a 200 ha no-take reserve in the municipal forest of the city Lohr), the implementation of various conservation measures, and an improved uptake of funding options for Natura 2000 sites across the region.
Overall, the initiative has contributed significantly to the knowledge, acceptance and funding of Natura 2000 sites in Bavaria and has improved the image of Natura 2000 among local decision makers and citizens.