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The Landscape


How it came into being

The Vistula glaciations (the last ice-age) ended 15.000 years ago and shaped the present face of the landscape of the Biosphere reserve. It formed a landscape of unique character and outstanding beauty. The glaciers were temporarily stopped in retreat thus forming the so-called glacial series. As a result of this activity we have specific geological and geogrpaphical elements, such as ground and end moraines in chains stretching from North to South and flat sanders and wide glacial valleys where the melting waters ran North.




The Climate

The biosphere reserve’s eastern area is situated in one of the driest landscapes of Germany and has a sub continental climate. That means a spring with rapid warming, a hot and dry summer and a relatively cold winter with the main precipitation amount.

The annual rainfall is between 500 and 560 mm/year. The central parts of the biosphere reserve with large forests and lakes embedded in end moraines have the higher annual precipitation. In the eastern part along the river Oder the sum of precipitation per year is under 500 mm.




Water bodies



Compared to international conditions there is an extraordinarily high existence of inland waters like lakes, bogs, small water bodies and leftovers of the ice age in the biosphere reserve.

The melting off of the glaciers 15,000 years ago created more than 230 lakes in the area of the biosphere reserve with a total surface area of 9,040 hectares. They mainly characterize the face of the landscape nowadays. For example the lake Parsteinsee has a surface of 1,100 ha and is the largest lake in Brandenburg. Most of the lakes in the reserve are up to 6 ha large and between 4 to 12 meters deep.
Small water bodies
The biosphere reserve Schorfheide-Chorin has more than 3,000 small water bodies. Most of them are natural ponds and puddles, but there are also manmade ponds used for fish farming.
Running waters
The centre of the biosphere reserve is crossed by the water shed between the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. Since the drainage of the large flood plain of the river Oder, involving the separation of the so-called Old river Oder and the construction of the Finow canal, there are no natural running waters in the biosphere. Most of the other 13 small brooks and streams in the Biosphere reserve, don’t have permanently running waters.




Bogs and mires

Approximately 2,000 bogs and kettle holes regulate the landscape’s retention and filter capacity. All characteristic types of mire in the north-German sphere like the nutrient-rich alder bogs, reed-beds and sedge-bogs occur beside nutrient-poor, sour formations like peatmoss-bogs and cotton gras-reed-vegetations. Sporadically, we find isolated nutrient-poor, calcareous-determined bogs.

Bogs and mires cover approx. 10 % of the total surface area of the biosphere reserve. Most of them are drained, disturbed in their natural structure and cultivated fort he purpose of human use. The re-naturalisation of bogs and mires is therefore an important aim of the conservation management.





The so-called „Schorfheide“ within the biosphere reserve Schorfheide-Chorin is one of the largest forests of Germany. On 64.580 ha stand a variety of woodland communities, from pine-monoculture to natural alder marshlands. More than 2,000 oaks (aged between 400 and 600 years) remain from a time when the forests were used to graze domestic livestock.

Without man’s influence on nature 90% of the biosphere would still be covered by wood, only the bogs would partly be free of trees. Nearly 50% of the area would have been dominated by the beech (Fagus silvatica)

The „Schorfheide“-sanders represent approximately a third of the biosphere’s area and naturally it would have been covered with sessile oak. Only the parts with sand dunes were temporarily pine-covered. For the areas on the south-east and east edge we can assume there would have been an oak-linden-hornbeam-forest, and in the depression of the river Oder as natural vegetation would have been possible, a riverside forest and alder forest.

Today only 48% of the area of the biosphere reserve is covered with forest with 16% broad leaf and mixed forest, the other 30% are coniferous forests.

This is the result of a great misuse of the woods in the 17th and 18th century, when extensive, open landscape with mainly bushes and shrubs were created. In the beginning of the 19th century a profound change in the composition of the forest took place. The Scots Pine (Pinus silvestris) served as one of the most important tree species in the process of renovation of the woods. Monocultures of pine emerged, with managed forests of same age trees over large areas