Each biosphere reserve represents a specific type of landscape. In the case of the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee, those are the Baltic beech forests. The location of the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee at the border of the subcontinental 'Biogeographical Province of Central and Eastern European Deciduous Forests' to the 'Atlantic Province' is reflected in a striking way in the species composition of the most important near-natural ecosystem types, this is especially true for forests and rain fens (raised bogs). The occurrence of Atlantic geo-elements in a broader sense characterises the Schaalsee region as representative of the central area of the Baltic beech forest, which represents the biotope type of 'deciduous semi-evergreen forests' in northern Central Europe.
Typical for the landscape in the Biosphere Reserve is the dense succession of different biotopes. This diversity of habitats is also the reason for the high species diversity.
Some important habitats, typical plants and animal species are presented in more detail below.


Eine Herde von Schafen auf einer Wiese. © S. Vinzing
Sheep are good for maintaining greenery because they eat small shoots and thus keep the pastures clear.

Rough pastures

Rough pastures have become rare, especially those where evidence of more valuable parent vegetation still exists (such as bristle-grass heaths or whistling-grass meadows).  But even rough pastures not dominated by these communities, mostly rich in red fescue (Festuca rubra) and red bunchgrass (Agrostis tenuis), have a comparatively high value due to their further decreasing distribution.
As buffer areas adjacent to nutrient-poor biotope complexes worthy of protection, rough grassland is very suitable. In the area of the former border strip near Kneese and in the area of the former village of Lankow, attempts are being made to preserve the rough grassland sites from scrub encroachment and forestation by using goats and sheep.

Bärenklau am Fluss. © I. Valentin
Hogweed is a genus of the umbellifer family.

Mowing meadows

This biotope type is characterised by regular, 1 to 3-shower mowing and is characterised by relative species richness. Mowing encourages tread and grazing-sensitive grasses such as smooth oat (Arrhenatherum elatior), cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata) and herbs with standing basal axes such as meadow chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris), hogweed (Heracleum spondyleum). Essentially, meadow foxtail meadows and smooth oat meadows are represented at the Schaalsee.
Especially with extensive use, meadows develop significantly more species-rich stands than pastures. Late mowing also results in a higher importance for wildlife due to a richer flower supply.

Gemeiner Gilbweiderich auf einer Wiese. © S. Hoffmeister
The common loosestrife grows in moist and sunny areas.


The sites of wet meadows are usually characterised by high groundwater, slope water or backwater and therefore by the frequent occurrence of wet meadow species such as marsh yarrow (Achillea ptarmica), cabbage thistle (Cirsium oleraceum), cuckoo's campion (Lychnis flos-cuculi), meadowfoam (Cardamine pratensis), fluttering rush (Juncus effusus) and loosestrife (Lysimachia vulgaris). The degree of expression varies depending on the intensity of management and the degree of drainage. On more heavily drained and intensively grazed sites, populations develop which are predominantly built up by general grassland species and which contain only a few wet grassland species. With extensive use, very species-rich, well-developed wet grassland communities can develop.

The lower the degree of drainage and the intensity of fertilisation, the greater the importance of wet meadows and wet grasslands. Well-developed, species-rich stands have high floristic and faunistic importance, as for example in the Kammerbruch in the north of the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee. They are generally in sharp decline and therefore highly worthy of protection. In the Schaalsee area, high-quality populations are predominantly preserved in small areas. They are threatened by drainage, intensification of use and eutrophication.

Eine bunte Wiese im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat. © U. Müller
A colourful flowering meadow in the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee with blue, red and white cornflowers among other plants.

Arable land

With the increasing intensification of agriculture, the importance of arable land as a habitat has declined considerably. Intensively used arable land causes severe damage to the natural balance (soil, water, air, semi-natural habitats, plant and animal communities), especially through the use of fertilisers and biocides and through drainage measures. However, farmland has a certain importance for nature conservation as resting and gathering places for large birds and should be included in extensive management. When structuring farmland, the needs of the Schaalsee EU bird sanctuary must always be taken into account.

Hedges and Hedgerows

Hagebutten Hecke an einem Feld im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat. © E. Dornblut
Rosehips are also found in the typical hedgerow sections between fields and provide habitat as well as shelter for numerous species.

Due to their linear structure, hedges and hedgerows can contribute significantly to the biotope network. They are guidelines for bats and amphibians and offer a large number of ecological niches for animal and plant species that no longer find a habitat on the intensively used adjacent areas. A hedgerow can harbour around 1,600 to 1,800 animal species. Old trees and pollarded trees are of particular ecological importance, e.g. for mulm-dwelling beetles and snails and for bird species as nesting and feeding habitats.

However, the ecological impact of the hedgerows and the riparian zones and embankments is not limited to their function as habitats. Like the less structured avenues and rows of trees, they are of great importance as pollutant filters, oxygen donors, shade providers and producers of evaporative coolness. Numerous hiking trails in the Biosphere Reserve are lined with hedges and are particularly popular with hikers. Especially in the area of the Techin hedgerow landscape, an intact network of hedges can still be found.


Fens provide original habitats for specialists that have adapted to the low nutrients, extremely acidic soil, high temperature differences and wetness. For the most part, the fen areas in the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee are forested with downy birch and alder, but also offer open areas which form the typical fen vegetation with tall sedge fringes, reeds and peat moss vegetation.

Dunkelroter und klebriger Sonnentau im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat. © K. Jarmatz
Sundews is a carnivorous plant and is often found in the fens of the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee.

Raised bog

Raised bogs, such as the Neuendorfer Moor and Schönwolder Moor, are fed exclusively by precipitation and arch above the surface of the ground as they develop over a long period of time. Especially in western Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and the Schaalsee region, such bogs can develop because precipitation levels are significantly higher than in the rest of the state. 
Natural raised bogs are home to plant and animal species that cannot compete in other habitats. They are highly specialised and shape the unique landscape character of the raised bog landscape. If raised bogs are drained or fertilised, these specialised species are no longer at a competitive level and are displaced. The entire raised bog ecosystem is worthy of the highest degree of protection, as it cannot be replaced or compensated for.

Wollgras im Fruchtzustand. © Biosphärenreservatsamt
The woolly cotton-like tufts in the fruiting state from April to May are what give cottongrass their name.

Raised bogs form a habitat formed by a mosaic of bulbs and swales for peat moss communities with cotton grasses (Eriophorum spec.) and sundew (Drosera spec.). The marsh Labrador tea (Ledum palustre) settles in the raised bogs of the Schaalsee area at its western distribution limit. The occurrence of more than 20 species of sphagnum moss, which is unique in northern Germany, should also be emphasised. In addition, the raised bogs provide a habitat for numerous animal species such as water beetles, dragonflies, ground beetles and leaf beetles, ants and spiders, but also reptiles such as adder and grass snake.

Binsenschneide im Kalkflachmoor bei Zarrentin. © R. Mönke
The swamp sawgrass is a rare and highly endangered plant species, which has its largest occurrence in M-V in the calcareous fen near Zarrentin.


Fen communities are relatively low-growing and are mainly composed of acid grasses and various moss species, but also of reeds. They are unused stands. They colonise nutrient-poor to moderately nutrient-rich sites that are decisively characterised by uniformly high water levels. In the root zone, the undersupply of oxygen leads to peat formation. In contrast to raised bogs, fens have contact with mineral groundwater and depend on the surface inflow from the surrounding landscape for their water and nutrient supply.

Fens are formed by the deposition of plant remains that are difficult to decompose during the silting up of lakes and depressions near groundwater. If the peat body gradually grows above the groundwater level, raised bog plants increasingly settle. Such an intermediate bog can develop into a raised bog.

The lowland bogs (fens) and intermediate bogs, which occur throughout the Biosphere Reserven Schaalsee, are habitats for numerous endangered animal and plant species. Many of these bog sites are drained. In order to counteract progressive degradation, various renaturation projects have been carried out.

Kuhlrader Zwischenmoor © S. Hoffmeister
Moor in the nature reserve "Kuhlrader Moor and Röggeliner See".

A special feature of the Schaalsee Biosphere Reserve is a calcareous fen on the southern edge of the Schaalsee, which has developed on calcareous sediments or accumulated calcareous mud in the siltation area of the lake. From a floristic point of view, the lime fen with its extremely rare and partly endangered plant communities is the most important biotope type in the Schaalsee area. The swamp sawgrass (Cladium mariscus) has the largest population here in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Also worth mentioning is the Kuhlrader Moor east of the Röggeliner See. This intermediate bog has remarkable occurrences of bog arum (Calla palustre), purple marshlocks (Potentilla palustris), water soldiers (Stratiotes aloides) and royal fern (Osmunda regalis).

Lakes, Ponds and Tarns

Schaalsee bei Sonnenuntergang. © Biosphärenreservatsamt
The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve is named after the Schaalsee.


About 10% of the area in the Biosphere Reserve is water. More than 20 lakes and small bodies of water characterise the landscape and represent an important biotope network. The largest lake, with an area of 24km², is the Schaalsee. Other larger lakes are the Röggeliner See, the Mechower See and the Woetzer See. These lakes provide a habitat for numerous animal groups such as fish, water birds, insects and, in some cases, rare mammals such as the otter. As a partly mesotrophic lake with species-rich underwater vegetation, natural shallow water bays and reed beds,  Schaalsee provides a habitat for endangered fish species such as the European whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus). Its great depth of up to 72m makes it unique in northern Germany.

Zwei große Gänse und zwei Kücken im UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat. © W. Stürzbecher
Greylag geese on a bank in the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee with two chicks standing protectively under the wing of an adult goose.

Likewise, eutrophic lakes such as Röggeliner See and Neukirchener See with their original shore vegetation provide habitats and breeding sites for numerous water birds. Well-developed reedbeds and riparian forests provide buffer zones with an important resting function, as they are necessary, for example, for waterbird species sensitive to disturbance that rest on the lake areas. Species-rich breeding occurrences of bird species such as the crane and bittern, some of which require Europe-wide protection, also occur here. Shallow water areas are also particularly valuable as spawning habitats for amphibians and fish. The larger lakes in the Biosphere Reserve are of international importance as resting bird sanctuaries for migratory bird species such as greylag geese and cranes.

Seerosen mit prächtigen weißen Blüten und einem Wasserfrosch darauf. © W. Stürzbecher
The leaves of the water lily float on the water and can thus optimally absorb CO2 and light.

Ponds and tarns

The small bodies of water in the Schaalsee area are for the most part glacial ponds filled with water. In addition, there are temporary water-filled or slightly dammed hollows or depressions that only occur after major precipitation events and then quickly dry up again. Small water bodies are usually not deeper than 2m and have a vegetated bottom.
The "Schaalsee landscape" is characterised by numerous small water bodies. Their botanical diversity should be emphasised. They have underwater, floating leaf and reed vegetation.

Ein Laubfrosch auf einem Grashalm. © W. Spillner
The European tree frog (Hyla arborea) is a good climber among our native amphibians.

As stepping stones, small water bodies are of great importance for the biotope network. In the Schaalsee area, larger populations of fire-bellied toads and tree frogs are not uncommon. Another important fauna group is the dragonfly with numerous nationally endangered species. For birds, the small water bodies are important as feeding and breeding biotopes.
Their ecological function is primarily determined by size, depth, vegetation, water quality and location (surrounding land use, water density, distance from forests); the origin of the water bodies is secondary.
Many of the small water bodies are located in the middle of cleared farmland and are exposed to the input of nutrients and pollutants from agricultural use almost without a buffer zone and are therefore often heavily eutrophicated.


Mesophilic beech forests, wet forests and wet woodlands form the natural vegetation potential of most of the "Schaalsee Landscape". Within the existing forest areas, some of which are extensive, the expansive and typically formed marsh forests are an outstanding characteristic.

The riparian forests of the Schaalsee are of particular importance. Due to their location near the border, they were unaffected for a long time, so that a unique flora and fauna could develop. Another special feature of this landscape is the slope forests growing on the steep slopes of the erosion talus edges, which are characterised in places by numerous spring outlets. The former border situation has restricted forestry use, especially in the Mecklenburg part, so that some primeval forest-like structures have been able to develop in the area of the former border.

Wasserfläche im Bruchwald am Schaalsee. © W. Thiel
Water surface in the quarry forest at Schaalsee.

Quarry forest

Quarry forests are natural or near-natural ecosystems which, on the one hand, develop in the siltation area of water bodies and represent the final stage of siltation here, and, on the other hand, can also develop over small areas on spring horizons or in marshy, almost drainless lowland areas. Characteristic features of the shores of the lakes in the Schaalsee landscape are their distinctive marshy forest areas.
The occurrence of quarry forests is linked to wet sites that are regularly flooded. Under near-natural conditions, the fluctuation of the water level is usually less than 1m in the course of the year. The high water level results in a lack of oxygen, which leads to a reduced decomposition of the accumulating organic material and thus to the accumulation of peat.

Drei Kraniche auf einem feuchten Acker. © W. Spillner
Cranes are frequent visitors to the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and benefit from the EU bird sanctuary during resting and breeding.

Quarry forests provide a habitat for numerous specialists such as insects specialising in alders (especially leaf beetles and butterflies). In the Schaalsee area, many alder swamps are breeding habitats for the cranes.

From a floristic point of view, quarry forests are a species-rich biotope type, whereby lowland forest management favours the light-loving plants of the wet meadows and reeds.

Quarry forest peat is worthy of protection as a rare soil type. However, many quarry forest sites in the Schaalsee area are subject to increasing drainage and mineralisation.

Ein Fuchs läuft durch einen flachen Bach mit einem Fisch im Maul. © W. Stürzbecher
Ash forests provide important habitats for many different, often rare animal species.

Ash forest

Ash forests are found on water-rich, mineral soils or on degenerated quarry forest sites.
In terms of vegetation, ash forests are classified as floodplain forests (Alno-Ulmion). Floodplain forests accompany streams and rivers as narrow, interrupted fringes or occur above seepage sites. There are often smooth transitions to other forest communities. The beech forest is followed on wetter sites by the ash forest (Carpino-Fraxinetum), the alder-ash forest (Alno-Fraxinetum) and then the alder swamp forest (Alnetum glutinosae). In addition to the general importance of the forest, ash forests and alder-ash forests are particularly worthy of protection due to their near-naturalness and species richness. 

Ein Waldkauz auf einem Baumstumpf. © W. Stürzbecher
The tawny owl is a typical inhabitant of the beech forests in the Biosphere Reserve.

Beech forest

Forests dominated by red beech are the most widespread near-natural forest communities in northern Germany and still largely correspond to the Baltic beech forest. 
On suitable arable sites, they are in competition with highly productive arable land. Good forest sites are only found where clearing was not worthwhile due to the relief structure or other unfavourable site conditions, or where the ownership structure ensured the continued existence of the forests. In the Biosphere Reserve Schaalsee, forest areas in Testorfer Wald, Dohlen and Braken are subject to zero use in order to allow natural processes to take place in the beech forest.
From a floristic point of view, beech forests with orchid occurrences (Red List species) are particularly valuable. Numerous beetle species occur, such as glossy beetles, jewel beetles, longhorn beetles and weevils. Beech forests are breeding habitats for cavity-nesting birds such as the black woodpecker, tawny owl and stock dove as well as the habitat of bat species.