UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Bliesgau
Land of the Orchid, Zero Emissions Region and Education for Sustainable Development
Extensive orchard and species-rich orchid meadows, old beech forests and enchanted meadows are the defining landscape elements of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Bliesgau. The gently rolling landscape in the southeast of the Saarland, situated directly at the French border, is Germany's land of the orchid. In early summer, almost half of all orchid species occurring nationwide can be found here.
Its representativeness inr the world network of biosphere reserves consists of species-rich calcareous semi-dry grasslands, sage and oat grass meadows and orchards, acidophilous and mesophilic beech forests, as well as oak and hornbeam forests. In addition, one can find the meadow landscapes of the Blies Valley with widespread floodplains, reed beds, high shrub meadows and floodplain forests.
Humans have been cultivating the landscape of the biosphere reserve for thousands of years. It offers many traces of Roman and Celtic settlements. With a population density above national average, it has a more urban character compared to the other German biosphere reserves. Actively and sustainably shaping the urban-rural relationship and demographic change with all its facets is therefore one of the priorities of the biosphere reserve.
Contributions to sustainable development
The "Bliesgau shelf” has successfully promoted branding of regional products in supermarkets for many years. Almost 20 producers market around 100 different products in around 60 supermarkets and beverage markets, as well as bakeries, butchers, and one-world shops, especially in the suburbs.
There is great potential in generating and promoting renewable energies, especially through making use of biomass from agriculture and forestry, as well as landscape conservation. As early as 2010, the Association Assembly of the Bliesgau Biosphere Special Purpose Association decided to turn itself into a zero-emission region in the long term. To this end, the local Climate Protection Council brings together representatives of local authorities, the district, nature conservation associations, land users, business development and the church - a total of 28 institutions.
The biosphere reserve is also a strong actor for education for sustainable development (ESD). A particularly socially innovative project by the student country hostel Spohn's Haus is the "New Home Biosphere" programme. With the help of ESD elements, it brings international refugees living in the region closer to the Bliesgau Biosphere Reserve as their new home, facilitates their integration and helps them to tackle the often new issues of waste and energy conservation, climate protection, and sustainability. Spohns Haus (in 2016) and the ASPnet school Leibniz Gymnasium (in 2018), both within the biosphere reserve, have received an award from the German Commission for UNESCO for their “whole institution approach” to ESD.
The biosphere reserve is exploring several partnership options, including with partners in Georgia. There is also cooperation with producers of shea butter from Burkina Faso. National and international delegations visit Bliesgau regularly.
- Year of designation: 2009
- State/Province: Saarland
- Size: 361.5 km² (11 km² core area and 70.7 km² buffer zone)
- Represented landscape: cultivated meadow landscapes and beech forests
- Website: www.biosphaere-bliesgau.eu