Travel Report – Region North – Northeast Germany

After 7 days and 313 km in total, the North Chapter of the Biodiversity Ride has already come to a close. What can I tell you about it? A question I’ve been trying to answer in my head for the last couple of days. For now, I want to describe my journey to you. Later on, I’ll present a more analytic description of the different regions and my findings.

Link: https://www.komoot.de/collection/2124642/-biodiversity-ride

The “North” Region of my journey from Angermünde (or rather Eberswalde) to Rostock has been beautiful, exhausting, overwhelming at times, informative and interesting to say the least. It raised new questions for me, “confirmed” some hypotheses I had and overthrew others. It gave me glimpses of a region I’d never seen before and knew quite little about before coming here. 

So how did I spent my days?

Biking would be the easy answer, but exploring, observing and listening (while biking) describes it more accurately. For the first time, I was able to explore my surroundings without having to mind about other duties I might have to do during the day. I could stop whenever something of interest presented itself. At times, that meant stopping every few metres.

You can say I travelled with my eyes wide open. Whenever I learn something new, like a new kind of plant species, I start noticing its existence in my surroundings. I call these “glass-shattering” Moments. The biggest one I had thus far was when I learned the difference between a forest and a plantation – so a monoculture of trees (Pic). Since realizing this I can’t not notice whether I’m in a forest or a plantation, whenever I’m in the woods. So part of me always wonders, what don’t I see even though I’m looking?

 

Sorry for digressing, but this question is a very big part of the reason why I’m on this journey. So what did I notice in the last few days, while cycling with my eyes wide open? The largest part of my tour led me through protected areas. Starting with the Biosphere Reserve “Schorfheide-Chorin” to the Müritz National Park I  spent more or less the entire tour from Angermünde until Güstrow on the 4th day in protected areas. Most parts of the woods were mixed forests, but also big areas of pine plantations were present. There are also a large number of lakes in this area and I drove right by a lot of them, but you barely notice them, because most of them are surrounded by woods. As an Austrian, this was very unusual but refreshing to me. Most of our lakes are surrounded by infrastructure. In the woods, you often find marshes with dead-standing trees in them, a rather mystic sight.

The landscape was one of the most lush and beautiful I’ve seen so far. It isn’t spectacular or “breathtaking” or particularly “Instagram-able” (I dislike this word so much) but diverse with a pleasant atmosphere and it seemed overall “healthy” as far as I can be a judge of that. However, in the conversations I had with several rangers of the national park and the biosphere reserve, my impression was somewhat confirmed. Overall the species population seems to remain constant in the last few years, at least within the protected areas. One thing to note here is that I will have an interview or two with scientists who can tell me more about the results of various biodiversity monitoring projects. These interviews had to be postponed for scheduling reasons. One of the newest additions of animal species in the region is the wolf, but in these parts, this doesn’t seem to be of much concern to people. 

Other animal species I noted were especially birds of prey. I was surprised how often I noticed large, shawty silhouettes circling over fields and meadows here. Turns out, this region is home to eagles including white-tailed eagles and osprey and the red kite. Very majestic creatures. I spent a lot of time observing them and trying to take pictures. I even went on a bird-watching excursion in Müritz Nationalpark on my break day in Waren. 

Another Animal I noticed quite often was the common crane. You can see them “grazing” on meadows and fields. One time I even spotted a little crane chick on a freshly mown field. I really hope its parents came back for it. The rangers told me afterwards that this was quite an unusual thing I witnessed, but I behaved correctly. You should not interfere in such situations. They also told me that this year they observed very few crane chicks as well as eagle chicks. It has been rather cold for an unusually long time and apparently, it hasn’t rained for months…

Other than that I noticed signs of beavers (a lot of fallen trees in the woods) and even spotted a beaver’s dam! Cries of the Common cuckoo were a constant companion on my tour and I also was able to observe several green woodpeckers. Of course, this is only a little excerpt of the species I’ve noticed and an even littler excerpt of the species that occur in this region.

Outside the protected areas, agriculture dominates the landscape and seemingly never-ending monoculture fields are characteristic of the region, but I was happy to see that fields and meadows with more structural elements could also be found.

Another big part of the Biodiversity Ride is of course talking to people. On the very first day I arrived in Germany I met with Marit Hertlein from the biodiversity exploratories. She studies the influence of certain factors on the decomposition of animal and plant matter in the forest and took me to one of her study sites. It was very exciting to learn more about the decomposition processes in the forest. There will also be an interview with her at a later date, where she may be able to give us some initial results of her research work.

Along the way, I also talked to people I happened to meet and talked to them about biodiversity and nature conservation. My impressions of these conversations in a nutshell: actually all the people I spoke to had already heard about biodiversity and its loss, and after asking more closely, they also noticed a decline in insects, here bees and butterflies were mentioned more often. Birds were also mentioned from time to time as “less frequent than before”. In general, however, the people did not seem particularly concerned by the situation and also said that either enough is being done for nature conservation in the region or they cannot judge it. All in all, I haven’t spoken to as many people as I would have liked and I hope that I can increase the number in the next regions. 

On my last day in Rostock, I met with the Nature Conservation Youth Grout there (NAJU Rostock) and had a very interesting talk with their spokesperson Moritz Röhlke about different approaches to nature conservation and the differences between environmental protection and nature conservation. I will of course go into these issues in more detail in another post. But let’s say that this is about much more than which species we want or should conserve and how we go about it.

I concluded the journey of the Biodiversity Ride with a trip to the eastern sea, before travelling to new shores and exploring the “Western” Region of my Ride – In the Netherlands and Belgium!

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Alexandra

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The Climate Walk is a combined research, education and media-art project by the Wanderers of Changing Worlds. It is about walking across Europe to understand regional experiences of Climate Change. It is about listening to local perspectives, learning from them and connecting these stories together to construct a holistic, people-centric understanding of these complex phenomena.
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