Wertvoller Naturraum
attraktive Kulturlandschaften
Main - Saale - Wern

LIFE+ Project - Background

All over Europe biospheres, plants and animals of particular value are being protected under the umbrella of the European Union’s nature conservation programme NATURA 2000. The aim is the preservation and development of the European natural heritage and its richness of species and biodiversity for coming generations. A network of conservation areas throughout Europe is to safeguard the natural and cultural landscapes on a permanent basis and thus preserve its biological diversity. The bases of the nature reserves system NATURA 2000 are formed by the European Protection of Birds Directive and the Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive (FFH Directive). The Protection of Birds Directive has the long-term protection of all wild birds and their habitats as its goal. The paramount goal of the FFH-Directive is the preservation of the biodiversity to be found in Europe.

In the shape of the LIFE+ Nature programme (“L'Instrument Financier pour l'Environnement") of the European Union projects have been financially supported throughout Europe since 1992 that serve the purpose of putting into practice the Protection of Birds and FFH Directives (network of nature reserves “Natura 2000“) and of contributing towards halting the loss of biological diversity.
LIFE+ Nature is to be counted among the most important funding instruments for nature conservation and supports numerous nature conservation projects throughout the EU and meanwhile also in the candidate countries that contribute towards the preservation and restoration of natural habitats and populations of wild animals and plants.
The LIFE+ Nature project LIFE 11 NAT/DE/345 “Vineyards and Meadow Orchards on Shell Limestone” called LIFE+”MainMuschelkalk” for short in German, covers an area of 4,640 hectares and comprises the shell limestone inclines in the rural districts of Bad Kissingen, Main-Spessart and Würzburg as well as in the city of Würzburg. With their complex and species-rich biospheres these form an important part of the trans-European network of nature reserves “Natura 2000”.
LIFE+"MainMuschelkalk" is 50 % co-financed by the EU. It is intended that, with the aid of the EU-funding programme LIFE+ Nature, a significant cultural landscape area and biodiversity focal point in the Region of Lower Franconia should be strengthened and developed.
The LIFE+ Nature project “MainMuschelkalk” is already the 6th LIFE+ Nature project in Lower Franconia. The project shall run for a term of 5 years (2012-2017).


LIFE+ Project – Project Promoters

The following partners have come together for the purpose of implementing the project:

The Bavarian State Ministry of the Environment and Health Protection
The District of Bad Kissingen
The District of Main-Spessart
The District of Würzburg
The City of Würzburg

Co-financing: Bavarian Nature Conservation Fund

Running term: 01/08/2012 – 31/10/2017

Total budget: 2,565,200 Euros (€)

Size of the project area: 4,640 hectares


LIFE+ Project – Project Targets

Preservation and development of a precious natural habitat and an attractive cultural landscape in the Main-Franconian Region.

Project Targets:

    • The safeguarding and optimisation of cultural landscapes with dry natural habitats, vineyard structures and meadow orders and their characteristic spectrum of species,
    • the optimisation and protection of the treasures of the Natura-2000 network (types of habitat and species) and
    • the promotion of the area as an important centre of biodiversity and a component of the European biotope network system.

Sun-drenched vineyards, meadow orchards rich in blossoms and fruits, sparse forests and steep, rough slopes dominate the varied landscape of the Main-Franconian shell limestone range along the Central Main valley and the valleys of the Saale and Wern Rivers. Thanks to the climatic and geological peculiarities precious dry grassland areas have been formed here that offer a habitat to an enormous variety of rare and endangered species of animal and plant. Alongside the natural dry locations a multitude of biospheres have evolved over the centuries as a result of traditional, extensive forms of use that have combined through close linkage with the primarily woodless dry grassland areas to form extensive and, from a conservationist point of view, high quality bio-spherical structures. The preservation and development of these precious habitats can succeed only through continuous and sustainable usage and care.

A further important target of the project is therefore:

    • Protection through usage – human and animal landscape conservationists in action

The rich and varied grassland with its wide spectrum of species is only “naturally” woodless to a small extent and would be limited to the most extreme locations within the area covered by the shell limestone rocks. It is rather the case that today’s most precious areas are the result of centuries of usage, in particular the traditional grazing of sheep, small-scale steep slope vine cultivation and use as meadow orders. As a result of the dying out of small-scale farming structures and the abandonment of difficult to cultivate steep slopes that went hand in hand with that, the natural succession has subsequently resulted to a large extent in a comeback of the forest, which may be recognised in the extensive encroachment of shrubbery on the slopes and high plains. In this way, not only is the characteristic appearance of the landscape in the Main-Franconian region being altered in the long term but unique habitats for rare species of animal and plant are being lost. This is why it is intended that the LIFE+ Project should provide new impulses for the realisation or continuation of the historical and extensive forms of usage. Under the close incorporation of the regional operators new forms of grazing are to be developed. As a demonstration and exemplary realisation hereof the resumption of grazing, for example through the forming of a herd of goats, is among the foreseen measures. Of great significance is the optimisation and networking of grazed areas by already existing shepherds and their flocks, for example through the creation of cattle tracks and the enlargement of grazing areas through the purchasing of land. Characteristic vineyard structures are to be safeguarded and restored by the planting and subsequent running of model vineyards based on historical examples. Land purchases have been made in order to be able to implement the removal of shrubbery from dry locations and meadow orchards, the exposure of cliffs and the thinning out of the edges of forests as well as to create a composite area.

    • Optimisation and protection of the treasures of the Natura-2000 network (types of habitat and species)

In the context of the LIFE+ Project “MainMuschelkalk” it is intended that 7 types of habitat, in accordance with Annex I of the FFH Directive, should be preserved, optimised and extended with the aim of promoting and improving more favourable perseveration conditions for numerous characteristic species.

Among these are 3 prioritised habitats: prioritised types of habitats are ones that are threatened with extinction throughout the EU. The European Community has a particular responsibility for the preservation thereof as the main focus of their dissemination lies in Europe.

    • Rupicolous calcareous or basophilic grasslands of the Alysso-Sedion albi (LRT 6110*):
    • Semi-natural dry grasslands and scrubland facies on calcareous substrates (Festuco-Brometalia, * important orchid sites) (LRT 6210*)
    • honewort - dwarf sedge – dry grassland – extensive occurrence around the ruin Homburg, at Karlstadt am Grainberg and at Saupurzel
    • Germander blue moor grass slopes: particularly to be found at Kallmuth near Triefenstein and Karlstadt am Grainberg
    • Medio-European calcareous scree of hill and montane levels (LRT 8160*)

Further habitats from Annex I of the FFH Directive that are to be preserved, optimised and developed in the context of the project are:

    • Juniperus communis formations on heaths or calcareous grasslands (LRT 5130)
    • Extensively managed hay meadows of the planar to submontane zones (LRT 6510) predominantly to be found among meadow orchards
    • Calcareous rocky slopes with chasmophytic vegetation (LRT 8210)
    • Medio-European limestone beech forests of the Cephalanthero-Fagion (LRT 9150)

With the aid of the LIFE+ Nature project it is also intended that the biotypes of the following 5 types of Annex II of the FFH Directive will be preserved, protected and extended: 

The biotypes of the following types of bird to be found in Annex I, Art. 4(2) of the Protection of Birds Directive are also to be preserved, protected and extended: 


In the final analysis these targets can only be achieved if many people in the region become aware of its peculiarities and value and recognise themselves that these are under threat.

For the wise saying (after Konrad Lorenz) still applies: "You only protect what you love and you only love what you know”.

    • Increase in the acceptance of conservation-oriented measures and forms of usage.


The realisation of conservation measures is being accompanied by intensive public relations work in order to arouse the awareness of this special environment and the acute threat it is under. To this end a LIFE+-Nature guidebook has been combined especially for the project which accompanies and supports the latter by way of guided tours and educational work. It is a matter of arousing awareness of the high value of this region with its unique natural treasures and the threat they are under, which will go hand in hand with a permanent change in the appearance of the landscape unless counter measures are taken soon. The marketing of regional products from goats and sheep as well as local wines and fruit combine with ecology and conservation and will thus ensure in the future the preservation of this unique Franconian cultural landscape.

Further information on the measures and their results can be found in the layman’s report which will be available at this site as of October 2017.

You are also welcome to contact us at any time for more detailed information.