What are successful concepts for restoring species-rich grassland in Germany? A multi-regional assessment of socio-ecological systems and pilot implementation

Grassworks uses a transdisciplinary research approach to investigate the criteria for success in grassland restoration: Which ecological, social and economic factors favor the restoration of species-rich, multifunctional grassland? Which factors act as obstacles? At the same time, the extent to which management structures and the appreciation of biodiversity influence the success of restoration will be investigated.


Grassland in the broader sense fulfills a broad spectrum of ecosystem services, ranging from pollination and carbon storage to the regulation of the water balance, and thus contributes significantly to the multifunctionality of cultural landscapes. Species-rich grassland is highly endangered by intensification of use, but also by abandonment. This is due to the fact that traditional extensive use, which has ensured the survival of grassland and its biodiversity for centuries, is hardly profitable in today’s agricultural production. However, as ecosystems of anthropogenic origin, species-rich meadows and nutrient-poor grasslands can only be maintained through continuous extensive management. The integration of socio-economic aspects is therefore central to grassland protection, but often receives too little attention. New, integrative approaches are therefore required to ensure both biodiversity and ecosystem services, as well as adequate remuneration for farmers.

In addition to the conservation of species-rich grassland, restoration efforts are becoming increasingly important. These are being carried out in different grassland ecosystems and with mixed success in some cases. However, systematic, evidence-based studies evaluating the success and failure of different strategies are largely lacking.

This is where the Grassworks project comes in: Researchers from the fields of ecology, sustainability sciences, and economics, together with the Thünen Institute as an interface between science and politics and the German Association for Landscape Management, are using a transdisciplinary research approach to investigate what leads to success in grassland restoration: Which ecological and which social and economic factors favor the restoration of species-rich, multifunctional grassland? Which factors act as obstacles? At the same time, it will be investigated how the success of restoration can be increased through improved management instruments and greater appreciation of biodiversity.

Grassworks works in three model regions in northern, central, and southern Germany with different natural and socio-economic starting conditions. In each region, 40 already implemented renaturation projects are selected and subjected to a post-hoc analysis. Vegetation-ecological and entomological (wild bees, butterflies) surveys, analyses of soil parameters and the landscape context as well as socio-economic and socio-ecological surveys are carried out on the sites. The success of renaturation will be evaluated on the basis of a comparison with positive and negative references and linked to the determining environmental parameters as well as social and socio-economic factors. In addition, transdisciplinary real-world laboratories will work with local stakeholders to implement model restoration measures, record changes in the appreciation of species-rich grassland through ex-ante/ex-post surveys and jointly identify leverage points that can successfully initiate a transformation process towards a higher appreciation of biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services.

The overarching goal is to develop a new, evidence-based approach to grassland restoration, create innovative advisory tools, and derive recommendations for improved governance structures. In this way, Grassworks aims to make a decisive contribution to reversing the loss of biodiversity in the cultivated landscape.


  • Dullau, S., Kirmer, A., Tischew, S., Holz, F., Meyer, M.H., & Schmidt, A. (2023). Effects of fertilizer levels and drought conditions on species assembly and biomass production in the restoration of a mesic temperate grassland on ex-arable land. Global Ecology and Conservation, 48, e02730.
Vicky Temperton
Project lead: Prof. Dr. Vicky Temperton
Prof. Dr. Vicky Temperton is Professor of Ecosystem Functioning & Services at the Leuphana University of Lüneburg.

Leuphana Universität Lüneburg

Universitätsallee 1
21335 Lüneburg

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Prof. Dr. Anita Kirmer
Prof. Dr. Anita Kirmer is Professor of Vegetation Science at Anhalt University of Applied Sciences.

Hochschule Anhalt
Strenzfelder Allee 28
06406 Bernburg (Saale)

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Das Projekt im Interview (content in German)

Grassworks – neue Konzepte für Grünlandnaturschutz 

Der Bestand an artenreichen Grünlandflächen nimmt seit Jahren ab. Dr. Vicky Temperton, Professorin für Ecosystem Functioning & Services an der Leuphana Universität Lüneburg und hier im Interview, beschäftigt sich im Rahmen des Forschungsprojekts Grassworks gemeinsam mit einem interdisziplinären Forschungsteam mit der Frage, wie sich diese ökologisch besonders wertvollen Landschaften wiederherstellen lassen.

Zum Interview auf der FONA-Seite.