Conservation of biodiversity and valorization of ecosystem services through rewilding – learning from the Oder Delta

The REWILD_DE research project investigates the potential of “rewilding” for the restoration of biodiversity and the promotion of nature-based economic development in European cultural landscapes using the example of the Oder Delta model area in Western Pomerania. Based on this, an assessment is made of the extent to which the experience and results gained can be transferred to biodiversity conservation in other areas of Germany.


Halting the loss of biodiversity is a key political goal at the global, European, and German levels, although the track record of previous nature conservation efforts is mixed. In recent years, “rewilding” (“promoting wildness”) has therefore entered the debate as an innovative, process-oriented concept of biodiversity and nature conservation. It aims to strengthen the adaptive capacity of ecosystems by re-allowing natural processes (dispersal potential, stochastic disturbances, and trophic complexity) in order to promote biodiversity and provide ecosystem services (ESS). Economic use of the areas is not ruled out. Originally developed in North America, the concept is now also finding its first applications in Europe and Germany; in Europe, eight areas have been selected as model areas by the “Rewilding Europe” organization, one of which is in the German-Polish border region at the mouth of the Oder.

The REWILD_DE project takes up the concept using the example of the only German rewilding area, the Oder Delta, and addresses associated questions of scientific and socio-economic evaluation as well as aspects of implementation. It examines the possibilities and limitations of rewilding in various forms (such as rewetting, stream restoration, natural grazing approaches) for the conservation and restoration of biodiversity and the provision of ecosystem services and what role it could play for biodiversity and nature conservation in Germany. The “Ecosystem Services Opportunities” approach is used to analyze the conditions under which ecosystem services (in the sense of regional economic and other social benefits) of rewilding can be put into value so that the affected stakeholders in the Oder estuary region can be supported.

The instrumental perspective on provided ESS is supplemented by the recording of intrinsic and collective values with the help of deliberative evaluation procedures and the development of a “rewilding dialog” with the local population. Creative approaches will be used to achieve an understanding of the guiding principles of rewilding and to promote appreciation for the intangible values of nature.

On this basis, REWILD_DE is developing an overall concept for the implementation of rewilding in the Oder delta. Finally, the transferability of the experiences and results to nature conservation in Germany will be examined, in particular the potential and conditions for success of rewilding as a complementary nature conservation approach for Germany. The consortium has excellent prior knowledge in the fields of rewilding (MLU/iDiv), assessment and ecosystem service opportunities (UFZ) and regional economic analysis (HNEE). Through the board of the project partner Rewilding Oder Delta e.V. (ROD), there have been established relationships with key local stakeholders since 2012. This opens up great opportunities for the successful long-term implementation of rewilding in the Oder region and a comprehensive assessment of the concept for nature conservation in Germany.

Project lead: Prof. Dr. Bernd Hansjürgens
Head of the Department of Environment and Society at the Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research in Leipzig and professor of Economics, in particular Environmental Economics, at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg.
Project lead: Dr. Johannes Schiller
für Umweltforschung − UFZ
Permoserstr. 15
04318 Leipzig

Das Projekt im Interview

Rewilding – Mehr Freiraum für natürliche Prozesse

Biodiversität zu schützen, ist überlebenswichtig. Im Interview mit Professor Dr. Bernd Hansjürgens, Koordinator des Projektes REWILD_DE, wird das Konzept des Rewilding zum Erhalt der Artenvielfalt näher beleuchtet. 

Zum Interview auf der FONA-Seite.