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Location and facts

Recreation and adventure also mean conserving and developing further. The Barnim Nature Park manages this. It is a joint large-scale conservation area of the German States of Brandenburg and Berlin. Around 5.4% of its surface area of 750 km² is located in the northern Berlin districts of Pankow and Reinickendorf. The Brandenburg part lies between the municipalities of Bernau, Bad Freienwalde, Eberswalde, Liebenwalde and Oranienburg. More than 50% of the landscape here is taken up by woodland and forests – a good third is made up of grassland and arable land. The mosaic is completed by countless lakes, moors, running waters and field pothole ponds. The latter – the field pothole ponds which are generally small and nearly always circular– are home to the fire-bellied toad, the emblem of the Nature Park, which is threatened by extinction.

How the Barnim nature zone developed

The last Ice Age shaped the North German Plain and left deep traces behind in the landscape. The melt water flowing away created the glacial valleys to the north and south of Berlin. Between them, the Barnim rises on top of clay and sand.

The plateau begins in the city itself – at what is known as the Berlin Balcony rising impressively in the Mahlsdorf district. The Barnim is bounded to the north as well by the Eberswalder glacial valley, to the east by the Oder valley and to south by the Berlin glacial valley. To the west, by contrast, the plateau flattens out steadily to the Havel lowlands. The Barnim Nature Park comprises not only the Barnim plateau but above all the West Barnim and also includes parts of the Havel lowlands and the Eberswalder glacial valley.

Schönower Heide

Man made

The Barnim rim is an ancient settlement area – Palaeolithic hunters passed through this region more than 13,000 years ago. Later the people settled there and engaged in arable farming and animal husbandry. After the Bronze Age, Germanic tribes migrated into the region and left a few hundred years later. As of the 4th century, the area was settled by Slavic tribes who ruled there for a long time. Brandenburg was only conquered by the first Margrave, the Ascanian Prince Albert the Bear, in 1157.

The colonisation by the House of Ascania brought about the most substantial human-made change in the landscape up to that time. Large areas of land were cleared and soil erosion followed.  An artificial network of ditches was created, in order to lower the groundwater level and obtain agricultural land.

The long-term consequence of this was humification of the moor soils and silting up of the lakes. The intensification of agriculture reinforced this effect since the 60s. Today’s landscape results from the interplay between the Ice Age, climate changes and human interventions.

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