Paradise found …

A place where butterflies flourish

What do Rheinmetall and butterflies have in common? Not much, you might think. And yet the opposite is true. From 2002 to 2011, the entire Rheinmetall proving ground (Fojana) was examined up to 21 times each year. The facility’s butterfly species were surveyed a total of 111 times.

The butterflies occupy a roughly 55-square-kilometre area of woodland and heath in Lower Saxony. Rheinmetall’s proving ground at Unterlüß in the Lüneburger Heide plays host to a unique array of butterflies. The outcome of a philosophy of single-source forest, game and conservation management, Fojana is a natural paradise of a kind not found elsewhere in Germany.

Thanks to Rheinmetall’s integrated approach to conservation, the proving ground – a restricted area for over 115 years – is a natural space with exceptionally rich biodiversity. Active landscape management and design ensure that, among other things, thousands of insect species feel at home here – including the most beautiful of all: the butterfly.

The huge variety of butterflies – those almost magical creatures – that flit over the terrain was so conspicuous that butterfly expert Dierk Baumgarten decided it was time to take a closer look at the Fojana site. That was back in 2002. However, the results were so spectacular that, with the support of the Rheinmetall forest management team, Baumgarten obtained greater access to the proving ground, meaning that the study was extended over and over again – right through to 2011. The result was a comprehensive ten-year study.

No fewer than 1,120 species of diurnal and nocturnal butterflies from 60 genera were found at Fojana. These included 568 species of large butterflies (Macrolepidoptera) from 23 genera, and 552 species of small butterflies (Microlepidoptera). The presence in Lower Saxony of seven species of small butterflies was established for the first time.

These multifaceted, high-quality habitats with their very impressive populations of rare and threatened species are primarily the result of many decades of military use and systematic, consistent management of the landscape. The main reason for the diversity and quality of the Fojana site is the prolonged use and management of the location, particularly the open-country habitats. Ultimately, it is the philosophy of sustainable, continuously evolving biotope management with the goal of maximum variety that explains the site’s great biodiversity.

Source: "Paradiesische Zustände" - Dierk Baumgarten, 2013

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