The middle forest – an old form of forestry returns
The Mittelwald is a traditional method of forest management in the Ville forests, which was used from the Middle Ages until the middle of the 19th century. It was widespread in the nineteenth century. In this case, hornbeam and linden trees were put on the vine every 20 to 30 years and used as firewood (house layer). On the other hand, the oaks were allowed to live up to 150 years and only individual trees were ever taken for timber (topwood). Often the cut areas were grazed after a rest period of a few years.
Many mixed oak forests still show the former middle forest use today: The old oaks and copper beeches have broad crowns, which already start at low height at the trunk. The understory hornbeams and linden trees have emerged from cane lopping.
Natural and cultural heritage Mittelwald
With the removal of the shelter, light and warmth are returning to the oak woodlands, making our middle forests particularly species-rich forest habitats. Many rare and endangered animal and plant species feel at home here. Insect species in particular, such as butterflies, wild bees, and bumblebees, benefit from the increase in flower supply. Thanks to their abundance of insects, the forests are preferred hunting and reproduction areas for birds and forest bats. The loosely standing oaks form very wide crowns with dead branches. This benefits, for example, the middle spotted woodpecker, which prefers to build its burrows and search for food here. Many deadwood-dwelling beetles also live in the crowns of the middle-growth oaks.
In the middle forests, forest visitors experience impressive examples of a culturally and historically important form of land use that has largely disappeared from our landscape. You will be informed by information boards along the forest paths.
This is how mid-forest management will be carried out in the future
The use of the middle forest in the Ville forests was abandoned many decades ago and the stands were converted into high oak forests. The first step on the way back to the middle forest is the removal of the shelterwood from winter lime and hornbeam as well as the thinning of the canopy by harvesting single old oaks. This is being done as part of the LIFE+ project and is funded by project funds. Following the historical use, the middle forest complex is then divided into twelve plots with a size of approx. two hectares. Every two years a partial area is used, so that in the long term a mid-forest cycle of 24 years is established.
At the same time, the use of the middle forest has to adapt to today’s conditions. This applies to harvesting and maintenance techniques as well as to ensuring an adequate amount of old and dead wood. For example, selected hornbeams will be retained for the stem maintenance of oaks with value wood potential. The utilization of the house layer takes place as firewood or as wood chips. In addition, the proportion of lying deadwood is increased by leaving parts of the crown and branches in the middle forest stands. A special challenge is the restoration of the age structure of the upper wood.