Maintenance of open areas by controlled burning

Maintenance of open areas by controlled burning
Targeted and expert “controlled burning” can help to preserve an open landscape. © Yann Kohler

Involved sectors

Agriculture, Nature protection, Other: Countryside management associations

Affected habitats



Open-country habitats such as embankments in wine-growing areas or terraced landscapes, dry grasslands, heaths or peat bogs are ecologically valuable areas. However, as they are often only of marginal suitability for agricultural use, and are costly and time-consuming to maintain, they are at risk from bush encroachment or the occurrence of problematical vegetation (e.g. Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea) and blackberry). This impacts on the appearance of the landscape and on the ecological functionality of these areas. The maintenance of these areas through controlled burning may be a viable and cost-effective option here. However, this management technique will only be successful, from a nature conservation and technical perspective, if the personnel undertaking the measure are properly trained, as practical implementation of controlled burning requires strict adherence to procedural guidelines.


Impact in particular on Small mammals, Insects
Ecological impact  
Improvement or preservation of habitats Burning as a method of managing embankments and other sites helps to maintain an open landscape and therefore also open-country habitats such as dry grasslands, sandy dry vegetation, montane dry grasslands, heath and peat bogs.
Element of ecological network Open linear spaces such as embankments in managed cultural landscapes form complex networks which can act as connecting elements in a biotope network. Patches of woodland and shrubs increase this effect.
Time of realisation for measure Immediate: The regeneration and recolonisation of the managed areas take place during the vegetation period. Once the area offers some cover, it can be used as a corridor.
Impact scope Very localised (plot): When individual sites are managed in this way, the impact remains very localised. However, if several spaces undergo this form of management as part of a broader strategy, important stepping stone biotopes and connecting elements are created.


Implementation period Days: Controlled burning on specific areas is very swift. However, this management measure should be embedded in a local or regional strategy, and depending on the number of sites to be managed, may be fairly time-consuming.
Frequency Recurring: To ensure this in the long run, burning must be repeated over a number of years and must be part of an overall concept.

Economic and legal aspects

Costs Very low (less than 1'000 EUR): The costs of controlled burning amount to approx. ca. € 50-150/ha, so generally, it is up to 50% cheaper than other management options.
Socio-economic impacts Low: In areas with a structurally rich, open cultivated landscape, controlled burning can help to preserve the landscape appearance. Savings made due to lower implementation costs.
Sources of financing Other private sources, Public: local, Public: regional, Public: national, Public: European
Legal situation Burning must comply with local nature conservation and agricultural legislation.

Further information

Evaluation The outcomes of trials in Baden-Wuerttemberg, for example, which have been carried out for around 25 years, indicate that controlled burning has a role to play in maintaining open grasslands, their structure and species diversity. However, ensuring that farmers comply with the guidelines on controlled burning may be problematical and may lead to conflicts with nature conservation objectives and the local community.
Information Germany: Global Fire Monitoring Center (GFMC)
Contact Germany: Prof. Dr. Johann G. Goldammer, Head of Fire Ecology Research Group, University of Freiburg

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