Conserving novel ecosystems and layered landscapes along the inter-German border

Publication Title

Landscape Research

Document Type


Department or Program

Environmental Studies

Second Department or Program

Latin American Studies

Publication Date



borderlands, conservation, Germany, Novel ecosystems, restoration


For forty years, Germany was cut in two, its internal border a legacy of the Second World War and ground zero of the Cold War. But the border region, shaped for decades by demographic and economic decline, became an ecological refuge for many of Germany’s endangered plant and animal species. When the wall fell in 1989, conservationists launched an effort to protect the former borderlands and convert them into an ecological corridor called the Green Belt. This paper explores the novel ecosystems along the Green Belt: one a restoration and rewilding project, the other aimed at maintaining the imprint of the Cold War landscape. It shows how conservation of novel ecosystems in Germany and beyond requires a long-range approach that emphasizes opportunism, multifunctionality, experimentation, a flexible interpretation of historical fidelity, and respect for both emergent ecosystems and the deep layers of human history and memory.


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