Holcim Southern Germany: Ecosystem management.

Invest in Nature Today and Reap the Benefits Tomorrow

In 2011, the Holcim Dotternhausen plant in Germany was awarded the first "eco-account certificate" in the country. The ‘Eco-account’ System, is a voluntary programme where ecological enhancement measures are awarded ‘positive eco-points’ that can be traded against any future projects. In the development of the rehabilitation plan for its former oil shale quarry, the plant saw this as an opportunity to contribute to local biodiversity priorities and invest now for potential future quarry projects. Under this programme, the Dotternhausen plant has converted 10 ha of “barren river landscape” (old oil shale quarry) into a semi-open pasture land which is now home to many threatened species.

Eco-account system
Eco-account, a nation-wide voluntary program in Germany, aims to optimize the mitigation and compensatory measures for ecological enhancement.

Each state develops a landscape plan for the district and identifies biodiversity priorities and areas for potential ecological improvement. This information is publicly available and points are assigned according to the priorities to achieve the landscape level plan. Anyone (individual, foundation, company) can participate in the programme and implement measures on the identified areas. Once the measures are in place, and verified, the corresponding points are transferred into the eco-account, which can subsequently be ‘spent’ in the future on projects or activities. The system rewards improvements in habitats and encourages early investment in biodiversity by allowing interest to be accrued on the points.

Objective
The Dotternhausen plant is located in Baden-Württemberg state in South Germany. In the development of the rehabilitation plan for its closed oil shale quarry, the plant incorporated community needs with the development of areas for agriculture and recreation. By participating in the Eco-Account programme, the rehabilitation plan would also provide an opportunity for measurable enhancement and linking directly to local biodiversity conservation priorities.

Holcim recognised the strategic importance of creating enhanced biodiversity at its old quarry site and earning eco-points from the state that could be used as compensation for potential impacts due to future expansion

Project description
The project was started in 2009.

The planning and implementation was supported by the College of Business and the Environment in Nürtingen in cooperation with the Flächenagentur GmbH of Baden-Württemberg. They developed a plan describing which areas could be used for eco-account system and how these areas could be transferred into a site with greater biodiversity. The area identified for biodiversity enhancement in the former quarry was classified as "Barren River Landscape" by the state with extensive grazing as one of the measures.

To create a habitat of high ecological value the area had to be cleared of the overgrown vegetation. To do it in the best natural way possible, sheep, goats and donkeys were deployed rather than heavy machinery. Some parts were covered with top soil, in other parts oil shale was left as habitat for specialized plants and animals. Even slopes were created. Different local native species were grown on cleared area turning it into a more ecologically diverse area. These developed habitats attracted some endangered faunal species like Brandt's bat, Whinchat, Natterjack toad and large Tortoiseshell etc.

17 different areas were defined out of which three are already implemented into the eco-account system.

Results
Holcim (Süddeutschland) received 344,612 eco-points for rehabilitating a former shale mining area.

Participating in the ‘Eco-accounts’ programme allows for the quantification of the biodiversity enhancement of the rehabilitation efforts of plant. The system gives clear information of the relative importance of habitats and by converting a "Barren River Landscape" of 10 ha to a "Diverse river landscape”. The programme also provides a means to communicate with external stakeholders how local biodiversity priorities are taken into account in rehabilitation planning.

Lessons

  • As these were the first eco-points in Baden-Württemberg, all stakeholders had to undergo a process of learning. The successful implementation of this project is a good sign for future projects.
  • Measures for potential ecological improvements, if pre-defined, makes it easier to link rehabilitation objectives to the wider landscape priorities.