Knowledge Platform

General Information

The Märkische Schweiz is located in the Federal State of Brandenburg. It extends from the Eastern fringe of Berlin (25 km distance from the city) towards the Oder valley at the German‐Polish border. The total extension of the CSA is 576.4 Km2 and encompasses ten municipalities. The main settlements are Strausberg (ca. 26,000 inhabitants) and Müncheberg (ca. 7,000).

The area is located in the humid continental climate zone, characterized by severe winter, no dry season and warm summers. The average annual temperature is 8.8°C with ‐1.2°C in January and 18°C in July. The average annual precipitation does not exceed 500‐560 mm/year (MLUR 2000). The young moraine landscape is characterized by a fragmented, mosaic-like, semi-open structure of forests and farmland with a general low fertility. Very typical landforms are kettle holes (German: Sölle), creating small ponds or lakes that are often surrounded by riverine vegetation. The core part of the area is under environmental protection schemes (Nature Park, 205 km2).

Location of the Märkische Schweiz (left) with the Federal State Brandenburg (light red) and the County Märkisch Oderland (red), and land cover (right).
Figure 1. Location of the Märkische Schweiz (left) with the Federal State Brandenburg (light red) and the County Märkisch Oderland (red), and land cover (right).

Landscape Policy

There are policies implemented from different levels (area located level / regional planning, such as priority areas for drinking water, to European policy level such as the Common Agricultural Policy). They are often aiming at environmental objectives like nature protection/conservation and improvement of the environment and also at compensation of disadvantages. Nearly all the agricultural area (94%) is classified as Less Favored Areas, 31% are Natura2000 sites and about 9% FFH area.

The implementation of agri-environmental measures of the CAP is regulated through the cultural landscape program (Kulturlandschaftsprogramm) Brandenburg. Organic farming, extensive grassland management, tree-lines, kettle hole and field margin conservation, grazing and mowing schemes as well as the maintenance of orchards represent important measures.

Case study picture

Landscape Management

It is necessary to make a clear distinction between i) the mainly forested areas under nature conservation measures as core area of the Nature Park and ii) the peripheral agricultural areas surrounding it. In the core area policies are mainly dealing with nature protection (i.e. forest restructuring program, contractual nature protection), whereas the agriculture area is much more subject to policies aiming at landscape management in a narrower sense (i.e. organic farming extensive management, tree and hedge rows, field margins). The historically developed land use and management practices have shaped the Nature Park and especially its agrarian surroundings as half-open landscape with numerous natural amenities contributing to the regions high potential as cultural landscape with habitats for biodiversity, with recreation and water resource provision functions as well as location for food and fibre production.

Case study picture
© Fabrizio Ungaro

Landscape Structure and Elements

Arable land represents the dominant land use in the area with 46%, followed by forest (40%, mainly coniferous forest), pastures (5%) and artificial areas (7%), such as settlements and infrastructure. Agricultural areas occur mostly in the soilscape of the ground and loamy terminal moraine in the South-east of the area and the central Western part. The more sandy plateaus and end moraines in the centre and the outer North-west are in contrast occupied by forest (see figure 1).

The agricultural structure in the case study area "Märkische Schweiz", with an average farm size of 235 ha per holding and an average large field size of 22 ha (range from 0.01 ha to 353 ha, median = 5 ha) represents a result of agricultural historical development of the last 300 years. It includes the early agricultural land reclamation through the establishment of extensive drainage system with canals construction, increasing farm and field sizes of the socialist collectivization of the mid-20th century with extensive removal and re-modelling of landscape elements, such as fences, hedges, and even drainage ditches as well as the comprehensive technical modernization and transformation into more extensified management systems after accession to the European Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in 1990.

This has a strong influence on landscape structures and elements. Currently the total length of the green linear elements in the agricultural areas sums up to ca. 275 km, including tree rows (72.7 km), hedgerows and windbreaks (136.2 km) and tree alleys (66.1 km). There are 604 woodlots, 59 single trees and 474 kettle holes with an area < 1ha (see figure 2).

Spatial distribution of linear and point elements in the agricultural area of the Märkische Schweiz.
Figure 2.Spatial distribution of linear and point elements in the agricultural area of the Märkische Schweiz.

Landscape Functions and Services

The landscape in the Märkische Schweiz provides several functions and services, of which mainly the provisioning and cultural services add economic value. Considering the provisioning service the area has a low to medium yield potential for food provision. It offers raw materials such as wood and fibre from 230 km2 forest and contributes fresh water supply through its water bodies (11.5 km2) and wetland areas (1 km2). For cultural services water areas, small beaches, forest and field margins are important as they provide landscape opportunities for recreational activities and health. The area has a high aesthetic value with its half-open landscape with green linear and point elements, its hilly terrain, forests and water bodies as natural amenities. Therefore the Märkische Schweiz is a traditional tourism area for visitors from Berlin and local residents.

The area also provides regulating services, such as carbon sequestration and storage, moderation of extreme events like reducing the flood risk and climate and air quality, as well as supporting services offering heterogeneous habitats for species.

The diverse set of landscape functions and services raises conflicts, for example between the protection of drinking water and agricultural land use and soil pollution (through manure and garbage disposal). Also the air quality can be reduced due to large-scale livestock holdings with gas emission (odor). Partly the agricultural land use (maize production) contradicts the aesthetical value. And the intensive arable land use and forestry monoculture interfere the habitat function for numerous species. Further habitats are fragmented by the infrastructure network.

Case study picture
© Annette Piorr

Socio-Economic Benefits

Both, the core forested, nature protection intensive as well as the peripheral agricultural area generate socio-economic benefits. Through the provision of food and raw materials the agriculture and forestry sector gain yield from arable and livestock production and forestry. This creates employment and income. The regional society benefits from cultural services offered by the landscape. Natural amenities that enhance the quality of life through environmental quality and better opportunities for outdoor activity contribute substantially to recreation, health and aesthetical appreciation.

The Märkische Schweiz belongs to one of the few areas in the Federal State Brandenburg, where tourism has the potential to contribute significantly to the stability of the rural economy. Tourism generates employment by primary (accommodation of tourists), secondary (employment through guest expenditures und supply) and tertiary (supply of suppliers) effects. In Brandenburg, 800 Mio. EUR of gross value is added through tourism and 44,000 employees work in the sector (2007). Hence, tourism is more important than the entire primary sector (retrieval and production of raw materials). In the Märkische Schweiz the total turnover directly from accommodation sums up to > 10 Mio € per year.

Case study picture
© Fabrizio Ungaro

References & Further Reading

Häfner, K., Zasada, I., van Zanten, B.T., Ungaro, F., Koetse, M., Piorr, A. (in review). Assessing Landscape Preferences: A visual choice experiment in the agricultural region of Märkische Schweiz, Germany. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management.

Scholz, E. (1962). Die naturräumliche Gliederung Brandenburgs. Potsdam: Pädagogisches Bezirkskabinett.

Schulze, H.-U. (1992). Tourismus als Wirtschaftsfaktor unter besonderer Berücksichtigung des Natur- und Landschaftsschutzes im Berliner Umland: dargestellt am Beispiel des Naturparks Märkische Schweiz. Materialien des 1. Buckower Interdisziplinäres Kolloquium zum Fremdenverkehr in Buckow (Märkische Schweiz). Berlin: Wirtschaftsforschung gGmbH Berlin.

Ungaro, F., Zasada, I. & Piorr, A. (2014). Mapping landscape services, spatial synergies and trade-offs. A case study using variogram models and geostatistical simulations in an agrarian landscape in North-East Germany. Ecological Indicators 46, 367-378.

Responsible partner/person

Annette Piorr, Ingo Zasada, Fabrizio Ungaro, Kati Häfner
Leibniz Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research (ZALF)
Institute of Socio-Economics
Eberswalder Str. 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany