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SILVITI – The potential of rare and drought-tolerant tree species for the afforestation of former vineyards

concluded 12/2016



Since 2000, the amount of land in Germany dedicated to growing grapes has declined. For example, along the Mosel River it has decreased by over 20%. At the same time there has been a pronounced decline in the number of wineries in Germany. However, the typical landscape scenery in these regions is characterized by the traditionally managed vineyards on the slopes rising above the river valleys. Because of its small-scale management and the warm dry microclimate traditional vineyards provide habitat for many rare plants and animals. Abandoned vineyards have been left to natural succession. While it is possible that they can develop into ecologically valuable dry grasslands and herb communities, in most cases it is more likely that they will be encroached by grasses or shrubs such as the common blackberry (Rubus sp.). Often a tree layer consisting of willow (Salix sp.) and poplar species (Populus sp.), Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) or the non-native black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) is frequently encountered in wine regions and arrives next. However, the ecological value of such stands is very low. Given this background, the primary goal of the SILVITI research project is to come up with alternative ways of using the abandoned vineyards. The focus is on degraded areas with a low conservation value. The project will leave managed or culturally and ecologically important areas untouched.
Within the project various opportunities will be created combining ecological and economic objectives. Through the planting of suitable provenances of rare deciduous tree species they will be promoted thereby ensuring their future in Germany. These broadleaved species include Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis), Service Tree (Sorbus domestica), Whitebeam (Sorbus aria), Field Maple (Acer campestre), Montpellier Maple (Acer monspessulanum), Wild apple (Malus sylvestris) and Wild pear (Pyrus pyraster). Such native species produce some of the most valuable timber and due to their high drought tolerance are becoming increasingly important for forestry. Durable wood products that can be made from these minor species, act to store carbon for a long time, thereby making an important contribution to climate protection. In addition, the potential for sequestering CO2 in the soil and in biomass is higher with continuously growing deciduous trees compared to grape vines. Furthermore, high quality, high-priced fruit brandies can be distilled, especially from the fruits of apple and pear or berries of the Sorbus species. Thus the goal is to create new economic incentives to use the abandoned vineyards extensively, while promoting ecologically valuable deciduous tree species.


  1. To promote deciduous tree species several of which are very rare species like the Wild Service Tree, Service Tree, Whitebeam, Field Maple, Montpellier Maple, Wild apple and Wild pear within their original range thereby increasing biodiversity and the conservation of forest genetic resources.
  2. To preserve typical cultural landscape structures and the valuable ecological niches they provide
  3. To identify adaptable and site suited species provenances that in the future will produce valuable timber and contribute to the stability of forest ecosystems and cultural landscapes on warm, dry sites.
  4. To develop alternative economical land use practices suitable for implementation on the abandoned vineyards, as well as to prepare concrete recommendations for interested actors.
  5. To enhance long-term carbon storage by producing valuable timber that can be processed into valuable, durable wood products.


Supervisor:Prof. Dr. Jürgen Bauhus
Researcher:Jörg Kunz
Duration:01/2014 bis 12/2016


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