Arnica (Arnica montana) is a medical plant with bright, yellow flowers and has always been an integral part of our cultural landscape. Over the last 20 years, its populations in Germany and Europe have declined drastically. There is an urgent need for action to prevent arnica and its habitat from disappearing completely, but so far little is known about the reasons for the species´ endangerment and suitable measures for its protection.
The ArnikaHessen project seeks to bridge this knowledge gap with the means of practice-led research. To this end, researchers of the Botanical Garden Marburg, the work group Plant Ecology and Conservation of Geisenheim University and the work group Conservation Biology of Marburg University are cooperating to support the long-term recovery and stabilization of Arnica montana and its accompanying vegetation. As a result of the ongoing research a practical management concept will be developed to be transferred from the model Hesse region to other regions of Germany. Moreover, the ArnikaHessen project will bring together applied research and interested residents to build a network of people interested in attending and protecting the local arnica populations and securing their natural habitats in a sustainable way after the project’s expiration in 2020.
To gain a comprehensive picture of the current situation of arnica, the project will focus on different aspects:
Land-use experiments in the field provide insights about optimal landscape management, while numerous arnica populations in Hesse are studied regarding the major, habitat-specific threats. Moreover, research concentrates on the state and development of the genetic structure in arnica populations and any resulting dangers.
Ex situ conservation aids strongly threatened arnica populations in Hesse by introducing plants grown in the Botanical Garden from seeds from monitored arnica populations.
A long-term monitoring observes the developments in selected arnica populations and assesses the effectiveness of preservation and restoration measures. These measures will be expanded to include additional areas according to research results during the project´s duration. The research is limited to lowland populations (under 500 m a. s. l.) as these populations are especially endangered.
Beyond the mere preservation of arnica, public relations work and environmental education are also important elements of the project. An awareness campaign aimed at both adults and children to educate them about the popular medical plant and its valuable and endangered habitats will be started to enhance understanding of the importance of biodiversity in general.
The cooperate undertaking titled “Transferable management concept for Arnica montana” is jointly supported within the context of the shared sponsorship initiative “Research for the realization of the national biodiversity strategy (F&U NBS) by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) and the Federal Research Ministry (BMBF) and within the context of the federal program for biological diversity by the Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB).