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Alpine and pre-alpine meadow and marsh landscapes (historic anthropogenic landscapes in the area of “Werdenfelser Land”, “Ammergau”, “Staffelseegebiet” and “Murnauer Moos”, district Garmisch-Partenkirchen)

Date of Submission: 15/01/2015
Criteria: (v)
Submitted by:
Permanet Delegation of Germany to UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Ref.: 5974

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Mountain meadows and humpy meadows in the Region of Werdenfelser Land: Lat. 47° 473577 Lon. 11° 192814
Loisach valley wetlands: Lat. 47° 473043 Lon. 11° 12020
Murnauer Moos and wetlands west of Staffelsee-Lake: Lat. 47° 603132 Lon. 10° 983428
Mountain meadows and wetland meadows of the Ammer Valley: Lat. 47° 566814 Lon. 11° 003002

The district of Garmisch-Partenkirchen presents one of the focal points of historic meadows in Europe. They derive from the middle ages as well as the early modern ages ruling monasteries. Here a cultural landscape remains until this day a living testimony of a „joint product of nature and humankind“, according to the statues of the World Heritage Convention.

Within the area of the “River Isar” valley one can find the largest occurrence of “Buckelwiesen” (poor grassland with many humps), as well as the most extensive bi-annually mown mountain meadows in Bavaria in the area Garmisch-Partenkirchen and the “Ammergauer Wiesmahdhängen”. In the floodplains of the river „Loisach“ 20 km of related wetland, marshland and bog extend directly into the largest related marshland of mid- and west Europe, the „Murnauer Moos“.

Meadows mown once called „Wiesmahder“ are centuries old, documentation in „Mittenwald“ dates back to 1406, bedding meadows dating back to the 16th century, both are probably much older. Archaic (common-land) meadow systems reach back to the Teutonic conquest, probably even to the beginnings of the settlement in the subboral (Hallstadt- or Latène-age).

Striking requisites of this unique cultural landscape are „Baumstadl“ (typical barns), which are portrayed even on the oldest town views of the 17th century. In addition “Kochhütten” (cooking huts), “Streutrischen“(straw threshing brackets) and local livestock breeds („Murnau-Werdenfelser“ bovine and Mountainsheep) add to the broad variety of landscapes.

These meadows are also the typical landscape of the „Blauer Reiters“, an important group of artists of the early modern art of the 20th century (founders of the expressionism).

Meadowlands are currently not or only subordinately represented in the World Heritage Convention.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

Criterion (v): Comparable meadowlands can only be located in Europe and there in the humid sub-atlantic climate of the northern edge of the Alps. In many of their locations these meadowlands are degraded by intensified land use or are partly urbanized. This development has taken place for decades in all of the Alps, the Baltic States, the Mediterranean Sea area and Scandinavia. The number of intact meadowlands are declining. This internationally most comprehensive evidence for the traditional meadowland management in the German alps shows the different exploitation grades in a unique completeness and reciprocal dependency: “Wiesmahder” (mown meadows) in far-off locations, steep outlying locations - floriferous mountain meadows - mown meadows culture - common-land meadows in bogs and gravel pit floodplains of the mountain rivers – extensive „Sömmerungsweiden“ (alpine pasture) in higher altitudes. A similarly broad spectrum in such a confined area is preserved nowhere else in Germany, Austria or Switzerland.

The continuously extensive use from the sub boreal (3700-1000 b.c.) until this day created very specific habitats with an extraordinary high biodiversity. The district Garmisch-Partenkirchen has become not despite of but because of the cultivating activities of human kind, the hotspot in biodiversity in the whole of the Alps.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Natural meadows are maintained on thousands of hectares shaping the landscape characteristically. They are documented by the habitat mapping, meadow mapping for the European FFH-guideline, numerous botanical recordings and the many declared nature reserves.

The historic character extends to all fields and valleys, where historic small parcelling in the private sector and large mowed meadowlands of medieval and early modern age common-land are preserved (RINGLER, A. 2010 “großflächigste korporativ organisierte Alpflächen des ganzen Alpenraumes”). Comparatively natural are the agricultural structures, approximately, 1.000 mostly small farms, which in many places are organized as “Rechtlergemeinschaften” (community of interest with rights to use land in a certain way) that have an exceptional persistence.

These archaic and still highly living structures have been stabilized by national agricultural and environmental programmes, successful cultural landscape projects, and an over decades evolved cooperation between farmers, municipalities and local authorities. Critical for the preservation is the traditionally strong‚ “spiritual“ connection of the locals  with their native landscape as well as the high degree of public recognition for the work of the farmers (this is also shown in numerous initiatives of the district to promote the farming in the alps, like the international mountain agriculture conference in Krün in 2009, or as the alpine convention).

Comparison with other similar properties

Through climatic and historical qualities there are no similar cultural landscapes in the tropics, subtropics or in the Eurasian continental prairie- and woodland belt or in America. Even in Europe they are rarely preserved e.g. in parts of the Alps and the Carpathians. Meadows with history and character (in contrast to the intensive silage-fields) are (other than pasturage) „by nature” more uncommon and suffer a rapid decline. They are now among the most endangered landscapes in general.

The cultural landscape of the „Werdenfelser Land“ and its surrounding areas has a special status among comparable areas in the Alps: It has a particularly high level of scenic, cultural, agricultural and biological identity and quality: The coexistence of extensive meadow use on hillsides, in floodplains and swamps as well as the close integration of historic cultural landscapes in different altitudes between 700 and 2.300 meters (from the valley of the river Loisach to the highlands of the „Wetterstein”- and „Karwendel“ mountain range) is unique. The „Mittenwalder Buckelwiesen” are worldwide the most significant mowed (bulged) meadows with a fantastic biodiversity. These almost extinct „bedding-meadows” are found here in a great extent in the most significant, near natural marshland, the „Murnauer Moos“.

This landscape is the result of intact circuits of complete utilisation of the grassland and has most recently experienced a comparatively favourable development. Negative developments were in the past few years, slowed down and partly reversed with a large commitment of local people and communities in award-winning landscape projects and by means of contractual nature conservation and other government promotional projects (Europe Nostra Award for Cultural Heritage for the „Berg- und Buckelwiesenprojekt“ / Bavarian national award for the „Murnauer-Moos“ project).

According to the screening study of the federal agency for nature conservation this area is home to the „best, world-renowned meadow and marshland complexes” which establishes the outstanding universal value of the landscape.