|Palatinate Forest (Pfälzerwald)|
|Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve|
Palatinate Forest in south-west Germany
|- elevation||673 m (2,208 ft)|
|Management||Naturpark Pfälzerwald e.V.|
The Palatinate Forest (German: Pfälzerwald), sometimes also called the Palatine Forest, is a low-mountain region in southwestern Germany, located in the Palatinate in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. The forest is a designated nature park (German: Naturpark Pfälzerwald), equating to an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), covering 1,771 km² and its highest elevation is the Kalmit (673 m).
Together with the northern part of the adjacent Vosges Mountains in France it forms the UNESCO-designated Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve. The biosphere reserve is one of the biggest forests in Europe.
- 1 Geography
- 2 History
- 2.1 Name
- 2.2 History of settlement
- 2.2.1 Traces of activity (to the 10th century)
- 2.2.2 Abbeys, colonisation and development (7th to 13th centuries)
- 2.2.3 Abandoned villages, over-exploitation and depletion (14th-18th centuries)
- 2.2.4 Immigration, re-impoverishment, first commuters (late 18th to early 20th century)
- 2.2.5 Deindustrialisation and tourism (20th and 21st centuries)
- 2.3 Nature Park and Biosphere Reserve
- 3 Geology
- 4 Tourism
- 5 References
- 6 External links
The Palatinate Forest, together with the Vosges south of the French border, from which it has no morphological separation, is part of a single central upland region of about 8,000 km² in area, that runs from the Börrstadt Basin (a line from Winnweiler via Börrstadt and Göllheim) to the Burgundian Gate (on the line Belfort–Ronchamp–Lure) and which forms the western boundary of the Upper Rhine Plain. This landscape is in turn the eastern part of the very extensive eastern scarplands of France, which, on German soil, take in large parts of the Palatinate and the Saarland., with older (e. g on the Donnersberg) and younger strata (muschelkalk, e. g. the Westrich Plateau).
The low mountain range of the Palatinate Forest is continued northward by the extensive hilly landscape of the North Palatine Uplands (Nordpfälzer Bergland), whose highest point is the volcanic Donnersberg (687 m). In the south it is continued by the northern part of the Vosges Mountains in France.
The eastern end of the forest (Haardt) is adjacent to the Palatinate wine growing region. Here the German Wine Route stretches through the undulating area that lies between the Palatinate Forest and the Upper Rhine valley.
The Palatinate Forest can be divided into 3 areas.
- The Northern Palatinate Forest, bounded by the extensive northern Palatine hill landscape and reaching southwards to a line from Kaiserslautern to Bad Duerkheim
- The Middle Palatinate Forest from the stream Isenach and the line Kaiserslautern - Bad Duerkheim to the Queich stream and the line from Pirmasens to Landau
- The Southern Palatinate Forest, the so-called Wasgau, from the Queich stream and the line from Pirmasens to Landau to the French borderline in the south.
The Teufelstisch ("devil's table") near Hinterweidenthal
The Palatinate Forest is a major (3rd level) natural region within the Palatine-Saarland Scarplands (a 2nd order major region) and runs south as far as the Col de Saverne, i.e. far into French territory, where it continues as the Vosges ridge. This often goes unrecognized as a result of the French border; hence the French southern part of the natural region is often, wrongly, counted as part of the North Vosges.
The important subdivisions of these bunter sandstone mountains were drawn up in the 1950s and 1960s in the Handbook of the Natural Region Divisions of Germany and 1:200,000 map sheets by the German Federal Institute for Regional Studies. Despite that, some deviation in the names used by the handbook has prevailed.
- Palatinate Forest
- Lower Palatinate Forest (Northern Palatinate Forest)
- Central Palatinate Forest (only significantly separate landscape subdivisions shown)
- Western Wasgau (up to 513 m)
- Dahn-Annweiler Felsenland
- Eastern Wasgau
- Southern Wasgau (up to 526 m; drains into the Moder)
The name Pfälzerwald was first used in 1843 - when the Palatinate was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria - by foresters in the centrally-located municipality of Johanniskreuz, who used it to refer to the woods of the bunter sandstone region of the Palatinate. Its use was extended when, in 1902, der Palatinate Forest Club (Pfälzerwald-Verein or PWV) was founded, Fritz Claus, one of the pioneers of the PWV, in particular, strove to promote the name. A more precise, scientifically-based definition of the Palatinate Forest as an independent natural region was introduced in 1911 by Daniel Häberle, a Palatine geographer and local historian.
In noting the historical perspective of the term, it is notable that, prior to 1850, there was no overall name for the Palatine's bunter sandstone mountains It was not geographical factors, but historical territorial ones that governed perceptions at the time. By contrast, the Celts and Romans viewed the entire mountain range west of the Rhine as a single unit, i.e. they made no distinction between different parts of the region that, today, is the Palatinate Forest and the Vosges. The range was named after the Celtic forest god Vosegus and is recorded in many Roman manuscripts as "silva vosegus" or "mons vosegus". It was from this linguistic root that, during the Middle Ages, the name Vosges emerged in the French-speaking area and Wasgen or Was(i)genwald, later also Wasgau, in the German-speaking region.
So while the term Wasgen continued, for a long time, to refer to the entire range on the west bank of the Rhine, at the beginning of the 20th century, it gradually became restricted to the Alsatian part of the sandstone mountains, both in the minds of the public as well as in scientific discourse, whilst the term Pfälzerwald ("Palatinate Forest") became increasingly used to refer to the Palatine part. This led to the Palatinate Forest and Vosges being defined as separate and distinct landscapes. However, in recent decades, in the context of European integration (the Schengen Agreement), there is an increasing trend to regard the entire mountain complex as a single geographical entity again. Evidence of this changed attitude can be seen, for example, in the establishment in 1998 of the first cross-border biosphere reserve, the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO.
History of settlement
Traces of activity (to the 10th century)
Whilst there are traces of various human activities in the more suitable regions of what is now the Palatinate, takin place since the Neolithic period (5,500-4,500 BC), and especially in Celtic (800 to 10 BC) and Roman (10 BC to 450 AD) times, the mountains on the west bank of the Rhine were practically uninhabited and covered by dense, ancient forest until the end of the Migration Period (about 600 AD).
Abbeys, colonisation and development (7th to 13th centuries)
After the Frankish conquests in the Early Middle Ages (7th to 10th century) only took them to the edges of today's Palatinate Forest, there was increasing population pressure in the Middle Ages (10th to 13th century), especially through the initiatives of the nobility and the church, e.g. through the establishment of monasteries such as the Cistercian abbeys of Otterberg (1144) and Eußerthal (1148), the colonization and development of the mountains. Areas that could be used for agriculture were cleared and settled permanently. This development reached its peak in the region during the era of the Salian (10th-12th centuries) and Hohenstaufen (12th and 13th century) emperors, with the construction of Trifels Castle and other castles in the surrounding area that, for a time, made it the centre of power of the empire.
Abandoned villages, over-exploitation and depletion (14th-18th centuries)
This development took place in the Late Middle Ages (13th to 15th centuries) and Early Modern Period (16th to 18th century), because disease (e.g. The Plague) and famine led to a significant decline in population and the total number of settlements fell sharply (leaving abandoned villages), thanks to wars and economic circumstances. Thus, during the colonization of the mountains, areas were often cleared that, due to the nutrient-poor sandy soils were unsuitable for economic farming and had to be abandoned after a short period due to overuse and overexploitation. Also, the use of the forest to obtain firewood and timber did not follow the principles of sustainability. On the one hand, the production of straw (foliage as bedding for cattle) and wood pasture damaged the soils and forests; on the other hand the manufacture of iron, glass and potash, which needed a lot of wood, led for centuries to the overuse and destruction of the forest and thus to the further impoverishment of the population. Occupations that the forest itself supported, such as lumberjacks, charcoal burners, rafters, resin burners (pitch boilers) and ash burners, only supported a meagre existence.
Immigration, re-impoverishment, first commuters (late 18th to early 20th century)
After large population losses during the Thirty Years' War, the population was initially restored and stabilized in the late 17th century initially as a result of settler migration from the Tyrol and Swabia and the settlement of religious refugees from Switzerland, France and the Netherlands (Huguenots and Mennonites). From then on to the end of the 18th century, the population then expanded as a result of the better design of farms (such as the Frankish house) and the expansion of villages (clustered village or Haufendörfer). This development, however, meant that the resources of the mountains were rapidly exhausted and over-population and poverty, in particular in the 19th century, led to increased emigration to the New World. Apart from the modest level of iron extraction and processing, work in the forests and the operation of paper mills, the shoemaking industry in the region Pirmasens was the only real source of income. This meant that the railway in the second half of the 19th century (the Ludwig Railway and Landau–Zweibrücken line) brought some improvement in the situation, because now it was possible to commute to towns outside the Palatinate Forest and seek employment in one of the emerging industries (e.g. BASF at Ludwigshafen) there.
Deindustrialisation and tourism (20th and 21st centuries)
In the 20th century, the general economic structural changes in Germany also affected the region of the Palatinate Forest, which was increasingly integrated into the overall economic and transport systems. Secluded forest farming villages became municipalities with a service character through the building of infrastructure (e.g. public transport), and, in many cases, the villagers now no longer worked locally, but in more distant regional centres, such as Ludwigshafen and Kaiserslautern.
By contrast local industries in the mountains became rarer or were closed, as can be seen in the example of the footwear industry. Since its heyday in the 1950s and 1960s, globalization has seen the relocation of shoe production abroad, resulting in the almost total collapse of the industry, reinforced especially in the 1980s and 1990s by increasing unemployment and induced migration trends. In addition, the far-reaching demographic changes of the last few decades have caused further structural problems, especially affecting remote communities in sparsely populated areas through population decline, aging and migration.
At the same time, the forested highlands has gained increasing importance in the second half of the twentieth century as a place for recreation and leisure activities of special ecological status. This is reflected in various touristic concepts and activities to offer the native population additional work and income opportunities and to assist in counteracting the structural changes described above.
Nature Park and Biosphere Reserve
Whereas the Palatinate Forest was earlier seen mainly as a source of raw materials and energy supply, today, in addition to its recreation and leisure function, its ecological importance as a "special protected landscape" has come to the forefront. This change in attitude found visible expression, inter alia, through the establishment of the Palatinate Forest Nature Park and, later the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve.
The Palatinate Forest Nature Park was created in 1958 as the third nature park in Germany. In accordance with the requirements of the originator of the nature park concept, Alfred Toepfer, the Palatinate Forest was to be a place of recreation and exercise for the stressed office workers of the cities in the Rhine valley which were then suffering badly from air pollution. The nature park expansion programme envisaged 95 car parks, 13 camp sites, seven observation towers and five open-air pools.
In fact, 62 woodland car parks were created in the first seven years as well as 530 benches and as many waste bins. A total of 370 km of hiking trails were added or created and 45 signed circular trails laid out. The management of the nature park took over the Palatinate Forest Club (PWV). The 20 open shelters, built for walkers in log house style, were named "Fischer Huts" after the Managing Director of the Palatinate Forest Club, Ludwig Fischer.
In the mid-1960s, the PWV came to the conclusion that the work required could not be done by volunteers and handed the management of the nature park to the Palatinate provincial government. By 1974, 3.7 million euros had been spent on improving recreational opportunities.
Around 1975 the expansion of recreational facilities was viewed as complete and attention switched to the care of biotopes and the landscape in the centre. Increasingly there was also a desire to replace the many coniferous monocultures, planted as a result of war, wartime reparations and times of crisis, with species rich site-specific mixed forests.
On 20 July 1982 the Palatinate Forest Nature Park Association (Verein Naturpark Pfälzerwald) was founded as a support organization. The members of the association are those counties and independent towns whose territories are covered by the nature park as well as the Palatinate regional association, various hiking and sports clubs and environmental organizations. Many social organisations are involved in the work of the nature park, ensuring the independence of academic and regional individual interests. The association's goal is to develop the nature park and its eponymous biosphere reserve equally and to maintain its uniqueness and beauty as well as its national recreational value. Since 1997, the head office of the association has been in Lambrecht.
The Palatinate Forest Nature Park was recognized in 1992 by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve. In 1998 it became the German part of the first cross-border UNESCO biosphere reserve, namely the Palatinate Forest-North Vosges Biosphere Reserve. It thus became the 12th of (as at 2009) 15 German biosphere reserves. These are areas that have a special significance for the global conservation of biological diversity and in which the ecological aspects, sustainable economic management, environmental education and environmental research are best linked together.
In 2007, the state of Rhineland -Palatinate issued an ordinance by which the UNESCO guidelines for the design of biosphere reserves would be implemented specifically for the Palatinate Forest Nature Park. This laid down a zoning scheme as its main focus, which envisaged three zones with different objectives and protection functions:
- Core areas
- Securely protected sites for conserving biological diversity where there is a "least possible influence on the course of natural processes", i.e. complete protection of typical ecosystems is ensured.
- Buffer zones
- The buffer zones are used for "ecologically sound farming practices" that conserve landscape character. They are intended to complement and link the core areas.
- Transition areas
- The main focus is on the promotion of "model projects for sustainability" that, for example, may include the development of sustainable tourism concepts or the environmentally friendly production of regional products.
The "quiet zones" (Stillezonen) also covered in the law are intended to ensure a "recreation in the stillness", but are not part of the UNESCO guidelines for biosphere reserves. The concept originates rather from the old protected area regulation for the Palatinate Forest Nature Park (1984) and therefore overlaps with the other three zones.
Core, buffer and transition zones are representatively distributed over the area of the biosphere reserve. As part of this, some 16 core zones were defined, together covering about 2.3 percent of the area. The source region of the Wieslauter (2,296 ha) being the largest of the core area in the biosphere reserve, with its mixed stands of primeval beech, oak and pine.
The Palatinate Forest is primarily characterised by a block of bunter sandstone and its underlying formations of Zechstein. The tectonically formed bedding of these rock types and their subsequent erosion led to the topography of this low mountain range that we see today.
Formation of the bunter sandstone
In the Permian geological period (about 296-251 million years ago) the first sandstone formations, some 100 metres thick, were deposited in the area of today's Palatinate Forest; in particular, the rock units of the Rotliegendes and the Zechstein (about 256-251 million years ago) are important. At the beginning of the Germanic Triassic, i.e. from the Lower to the beginning of the Middle Triassic, there was (about 251-243 million years ago) a desert-like climate, so that as a result of further depositions of sand, rock layers of up to 500 metres thickness were formed. This led inter alia, through the addition of iron oxide, to a variable colouration of the rock strata - hence the name "bunter" sandstone (bunter being German for "coloured") - and, depending on the type and binding of the material, (clay-bound sandstone as opposed to silicified quartz sandstone) to the formation of rock layers of different hardness. This resulted in the subgroups of lower, middle and upper bunter sandstone. These bunter sandstone formations were buried by various types of sediments in the adjacent sections of muschelkalk (243-235 million years ago) and keuper (234-200 million years ago), and also during the Jurassic (200-142 million years ago) and Cretaceous (142-65 million years ago).
Laying down of the Bunter Sandstone
At the beginning of the Palaeogene period of the Cenozoic era (65 to 23.8 million years ago) the formation of the Alps led to considerable tensions in the earth's crust, which, in their forelands to the north of the Alps, caused a bulge in the mantle and crust. At the apex of the arch so formed, there were considerable tensile stresses, so that the rock layers were stretched and about 35 million years ago, deep cracks and depressions in the earth's crust occurred (passive rifting). At the same time the sides of the newly created lowlands were uplifted, in the case of the Palatinate Forest, to a height of about 1000 metres.
These processes, which continue today, have had four important implications for the present landscape of the low mountain region:
- The removal of approximately 800 metres of surface rock (dogger, lias, keuper and muschelkalk), thus exposing the bunter sandstone
- The tilting of the sandstone layers
- the formation of swells and troughs
- The breaking the bunter sandstone into individual fault blocks and the formation of faults
Shaping of today's landscape
In the later Paleogene (34 to 23.8 million years ago) and Neogene (23.8 to 2.8 million years ago) and also in the Quaternary period (2.8 - 0.01 million years ago) erosion processes once more dominated. In particular, it was the weathering and removal processes that occurred during the various cold and warm periods that determined the final topographical shape of the Palatinate Forest. Characteristic of this is a system of deeply incised valleys, especially in the north and centre, diverse mountain shapes and bizarre rock formations.
Gneisses and slates form the bedrock of the Palatinate Forest today, but they are generally covered by younger rock formations, cropping out only in a few places on the eastern edge of the mountains.
Rotliegendes and Zechstein formations
These rock strata cover the bedrock and consist, in addition to sandstone, of shale and marl. They generally have a softer consistency and therefore form broad valleys and erosion surfaces in the northern Palatinate Forest (the Stumpfwald) as well as in the southeast. The southern Palatinate sandstone formations of the Zechstein are divided into four strata having a total thickness of about 80 to 100 metres.
The region is well known for its castles and has attracted tourists for many years. The Hambach Castle is located in the east near Neustadt an der Weinstraße and is considered to be the symbol of the German democracy movement because of the Hambacher Fest which occurred here in 1832.
The Berwartstein Castle has been reconstructed and is open to visitors. It is situated in the southern part of the Palatinate Forest. Of many other castles, like the Wegelnburg Castle, only ruins are left.
Trifels Castle, where replicas of the Imperial Regalia (Reichskleinodien) of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation can be viewed, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the Palatinate.
- Emil Meynen, Josef Schmithüsen: Handbuch der naturräumlichen Gliederung Deutschlands. Bundesanstalt für Landeskunde, Remagen/Bad Godesberg 1953–1962 (9th series in 8 books, 1:1,000,000 map with major units 1960).
- Various authors: Geographische Landesaufnahme: The Natural Region Units in Individual 1:200,000 map sheets. Bundesanstalt für Landeskunde, Bad Godesberg 1952–1994. → Online-Karten
Sheets marked with an asterisk (*) have not so far been included in the list.
- Sheet 150: Mainz (Harald Uhlig 1964; 39 pp.)
- Sheet 160: Landau i. d. Pfalz (Adalbert Pemöller 1969; 47 pp.)
- Sheet 169*: Rastatt (Heinz Fischer 1967; 31 pp.)
- Map service of the landscape information systems of the Rhineland-Palatinate Nature Conservation Office (Naturschutzverwaltung Rheinland-Pfalz)
- Natural region table with area data by the Rhineland-Palatinate State Office for the Environment, Water Management and Trade Control (Landesamtes für Umwelt, Wasserwirtschaft und Gewerbeaufsicht Rheinland-Pfalz) (pdf; 250 kB)
- Landscape fact file (major landscape) of the landscape information systems of the Rhineland-Palatinate Nature Conservation Office (Naturschutzverwaltung Rheinland-Pfalz)
- The Annweiler Felsenland is, according to a proposal by Beeger and Geiger, separated from the Dahner Felsenland along the southern continuation of the Elmstein Fault.
- Queich- and Eisbach valleys, Reichsburg Trifels
- nebst nordöstlichem Sporn zur Madenburg
- Kurt Reh: Der Pfälzerwald – Eine Einführung in Landschaft und Namengebung. In: Michael Geiger et al. (ed.): Pfälzische Landeskunde, Beiträge zu Geographie, Biologie, Volkskunde und Geschichte. Vol. 1. Selbstverlag, Landau/Pf. 1981, p. 381.
- Winfried Lang: Der Luitpoldturm und sein Panorama. Plöger Medien GmbH, Annweiler 2009, p. 75.
- Daniel Häberle: Der Pfälzerwald: Entstehung seines Namens, seine geographische Abgrenzung und die Geologie seines Gebietes.Crusius Verlag, Kaiserslautern, 1911 (Sonderdruck), p. 7.
- Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald, Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf. 1987, p. 18.
- Winfried Lang: Der Luitpoldturm und sein Panorama. Plöger Medien GmbH, Annweiler, 2009, p. 61.
- Jürgen Keddigkeit: Der Pfälzerwald als historisch-politischer Raum. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald, Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 1987, pp. 63–92.
- Michael Geiger: Dörfer und Städte in der Pfalz. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Geographie der Pfalz. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 2010, pp. 202–221.
- Roland Paul: Von alten Berufen im Pfälzerwald. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald, Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf. 1987, pp. 239–252.
- nach Heinz Ellenberg: Bauernhaus und Landschaft. Ulmer, Stuttgart 1999, p. 403, compare these houses with those in the Spessart.
- Hanni Mädrich: Die Schuhindustrie. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald, Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 1987, pp. 207–214.
- Jürgen Müller: Kraftquelle für Sitzmenschen. In: Die Rheinpfalz, Beilage Ihr Wochenende, 17 Jan 2009.
- Michael Geiger: Natur- und Kulturlandschaften der Pfalz im Überblick. In: Michael Geiger u. a. (ed.): Geographie der Pfalz. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 2010, pp. 155–158.
- Landesverordnung über den "Naturpark Pfälzerwald" als deutscher Teil des Biosphärenreservates Pfälzerwald-Nordvogesen vom 22. Januar 2007. Website of the Ministry for the Environment, Forestry and Consumer Protection of the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. Retrieved 17 June 2011.
- 50 Jahre Naturpark Pfälzerwald, Report from the Pollichia-Kurier 2/2009.
- Michael Geiger et al. (ed.): Der Pfälzerwald im geografischen Überblick.In: Der Pfälzerwald, ein Porträt einer Landschaft. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 1987, pp. 21–46.
- Roland Walter: Geologie von Mitteleuropa. Schweizerbart’sche Verlagsbuchhandlung, Stuttgart, 2007, pp. 241–258.
- Ulrike Klugmann (ed.): Naturpark PfälzerWald Naturmagazin draußen, No. 24. Harksheider Verlagsgesellschaft, Norderstedt, o. J., pp. 20–29.
- Zugversagen-Modell der Grabenbildung Website von Christian Röhr: Der Oberrheingraben. Retrieved 6 May 2011.
- Jost Haneke/Michael Weidenfeller: Die geologischen Baueinheiten der Pfalz. In: Michael Geiger et al. (ed.): Geographie der Pfalz. Verlag Pfälzische Landeskunde, Landau/Pf., 2010, c.f. table and map pp. 76–77.
- Geological Overview Map of Rhineland-Palatinate Website of the Rhineland-Palatinate State Office for Geology and Mining. Retrieved 8 April 2011.
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