Barnim Plateau

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The Barnim Plateau is a plateau which is occupied by the northeastern parts of Berlin and the surrounding federal state of Brandenburg in Germany.

A lake known as Retsee which is located on the plateau.

Boundaries and Subdivision[edit]


The limits of the plateau are easily definable. The southern boundary is marked by the Berlin Valley, through which the River Spree flows. To the west, the boundary between Barnim and the Glien Plateau is marked by a north-south glacial valley. To the north and north east is the boundary with the Eberswald Valley, and in the east, Lubusz Land.


Traditionally the plateau is divided into the Upper and Lower Barnim, separated by a line running between Strausberg and Eberswalde. Typically, Lower Barnim does not reach higher than 80 metres above mean sea level (AMSL) whereas Upper Barnim is generally more than 100 metres AMSL. The highest point of the plateau is Semmelberg which stands at 157 metres AMSL.

The extent of the Barnim Plateau.


Until the growth of Berlin in the 19th century, Barnim was only sparsely populated; in the eastern portion this continues to be the case. Excluding Berlin, only Bernau and Strausberg are the only settlements with more than 10,000 inhabitants. Werneuchen, Altlandsberg and Biesenthal are among the smaller towns in the area. Several once-independent towns such as Oranienburg and Wriezen, which were once independent towns, were incorporated into Berlin as a result of urban sprawl in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Geological Structure, Landforms and Soils[edit]

Bedrock Deposits[edit]

The southern edge of Barnim in the vicinity of Rüdersdorf unusually contains widespread deposits of limestone, Buntsandstein and Muschelkalk. The relatively high position of the limestone in the bedrock is explained by the presence of a salt dome; the migrating salt pushed the overlying sedimentary rock closer to the surface. The limestone deposits gave birth to an expansive quarry which provided building materials for the expanding Berlin, an example of which being the tower of St. Mary's Church.

Kansan Glacial Period[edit]

The deposits of the first glacial motions during the Kansan glaciation were laid as deep as 100 metres below the surface. They are particularly prominent in tunnel valleys. Kansan sediment primarily consists of till and deposits in proglacial lakes. Thanks to superposition with Wolstonian Stage sediment, it is generally only found at the surface in isolation around the Oderbruchrand area. Generally, present-day Barnim there is very little surface evidence of the Kansan period remaining.

A geological and geomorphological map of Barnim

Wolstonian Stage[edit]

Only the two primary glacial motions of the Wolstonian Stage allowed the plateau to clearly emerge. Geologically, Barnim is composed mostly of deposits from the more recent Warthe Motion which extends as far as Fläming Heath. The till associated with the Wolstonian stage can be found on the surface or within a few metres of it in many places. The deposits of the older Drenthe Motion are much thinner and covered by deposits from younger movements.

The Wolstonian period also saw the formation of several terminal moraines; for this reason there are numerous places throughout the plateau where the soil consists of clay made of oligocene and miocene, which belong to the tertiary period which predates the Wolstonian Stage by several million years.

Last Glacial Period[edit]

In the last glacial period, more commonly known as the last time the Earth experienced an ice age, glaciers reached 60 kilometres south of Barnim.

Hydrology and Climate[edit]

Settlement History[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • (German) Brandenburgisches Namenbuch, Teil 5: Die Ortsnamen des Barnim. Bearb. v. Gerhard Schlimpert, Weimar 1984.
  • (German) Wolfgang H. Fritze: Zur Deutung und ursprünglichen Beziehung des Landschaftsnamens „Barnim“. In: Jahrbuch für brandenburgische Landesgeschichte 37 (1986), S. 41-50.
  • (German) L. Lippstreu, N. Hermsdorf, A. Sonntag: Geologische Übersichtskarte des Landes Brandenburg 1 : 300.000 - Erläuterungen. – Potsdam 1997, ISBN 3-7490-4576-3.
  • (German) Carsten Rasmus, Bettina Klaehne: Wander- und Naturführer Naturpark Barnim. KlaRas-Verlag, Berlin 2001. ISBN 3-933135-09-5.
  • (German) Werner Stackebrandt, Volker Manhenke (Hrsg.): Atlas zur Geologie von Brandenburg. Landesamt für Geowissenschaften und Rohstoffe Brandenburg (heute: Landesamt für Bergbau, Geologie und Rohstoffe Brandenburg, LBGR), 2. Aufl., 142 S., 43 Karten, Kleinmachnow 2002, ISBN 3-9808157-0-6.
  • (German) Reinhard E. Fischer, Die Ortsnamen der Länder Brandenburg und Berlin. Band 13 der Brandenburgischen Historischen Studien im Auftrag der Brandenburgischen Historischen Kommission, be.bra wissenschaft verlag Berlin-Brandenburg 2005, ISBN 3-937233-30-X, ISSN 1860-2436, Seite 43.
  • (German) Ludger Gailing, Karl-Dieter Keim: Analyse von informellen und dezentralen Institutionen und Public Governance mit kulturlandschaftlichem Hintergrund in der Beispielregion Barnim. Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Materialien der Interdisziplinären Arbeitsgruppe Zukunftsorientierte Nutzung ländlicher Räume (LandInnovation), Nr. 6, Berlin, 2006 Onlinefassung

Coordinates: 52°40′N 14°15′E / 52.667°N 14.250°E / 52.667; 14.250