Who we are

Welcome to the website of the Gesellschaft für ökologische Planung (Association for ecological planning). We are a nature conservation organization and we are working to protect and conserve valuable flora and fauna in Hamburg, especially the tidal floodplains. In addition, we are striving to inspirit people to handle our surrounding nature and environment in a respectful and sustainable way.

We are investing our energy and resources in the following four focal areas: active conversation of species and habitats, environmental education, participation in political processes and realization of conservation projects. Combining all these aspects leads to a holistic approach that nature and men can benefit from. The Gesellschaft für ökologische Planung was established as non-profit association in 1982.

Protect Hamburg’s nature: our daily business

We are official assigned by the Senate of Hamburg to attend to 12 of 32 protected areas in the city. Our association has been active in practical nature conservation since its early days. The habitats and species that we protect are extremely diverse – and so are our tending and developing strategies. Inland dunes, bogs, wetlands, woodlands, creeks and ponds, heathlands and drying areas are amongst the areas that we protect and conserve. We maintain heathlands by removing trees and scrubs; we take out so-called neophyte or invasive plants (plants that are not native to a specific location) where they outcompete native species and reduce biodiversity. We dam up hollows and we develop environmentally sound directions through protected areas. We protect outstanding species with specific measures – for instance wild orchids by regularly mowing single meadows.

Before carrying out measures for nature protection or conservation, we need to develop a concept and bring it into agreement with relevant authorities and other players. We are elaborating drafts on large conservation projects and are analyzing issues such as the establishment of new protected areas. We discuss and collaborate at the level of local politics.

Experience Hamburg’s nature: our environmental education

Since 2006, we are running an information center and are active in environmental education. Our main focus is one of Hamburg’s most pristine habitats: the tidal Elbe and its floodplain forests.

There is a speciality about the Elbe River: the downstream Elbe is subject to the tides, also titled “tidal Elbe”. The influence from the tides of the North Sea affects the water levels of the river until the sluice of Geesthacht. In terms of water composition, the incoming salt water from the North Sea turns the water of the Elbe into brackish water until Hamburg’s western boundaries. Further upstream, it’s fresh water. Dykes and flood protection walls up to 9.35 metres in height around the Elbe in Hamburg provide protection from high tides. In some areas of the Elbe River we can find floodplains: these are areas of land adjacent to the river that stretch from the banks of its channel to the base of the dykes. Those areas are flooded during high tide.

These three factors – the tidal Elbe, the sweet water and the floodplain area - constitute the basis of this unique habitat.

In our information center, the permanent exhibition gives insight in the tidal Elbe and the fresh water riparian forest with its special fauna and flora. It displays local birds, inter alia cormorants, egrets, and different birds of prey as well as local plants such as reed. The extremely unusual habitat of the floodplain forest along the tidal Elbe hosts two types of plants that only exist in this area: the "Schierlings Wasserfenchel" or hemlock water dropwort and the “Wibels Schmiele” or Wibels hair grass.

Apart from the exhibition in our information center, you can experience the tidal Elbe in its vicinity – visit the protected area “Heuckenlock” or make a stroll to the “Bunthäuser Spitze”. Our information center is open to the public at the weekends.

Summertime (starting last Sunday in march): Saturday, Sunday, bank holiday: 11 to 6 pm.

Wintertime (starting last Sunday in October): Sunday, bank holiday 11 to 5 pm.

On request, we offer excursions into the pristine nature of the tidal Elbe for groups. Please feel free to get in touch with us.

The Heuckenlock

Three kilometers long, up to 400 meters wide, around 500 different plant species - the Heuckenlock is the proof for biodiversity adjacent to a large city. On the right bank of the southern Elbe River, we find this wonderful protected area called “Heuckenlock” with its valuable intertidal mudflats, reed and remainders of pristine riparian wood. Here, rare and endangered species have their home.

Twice a day, the incoming tide floods the tidal creek of the Heuckenlock and brings in nutrient-rich sediments. Up to 100 time a year, the protected area is submerged in high floods. The result of this changeful conditions is a specific and well adapted vegetation. In summer, the lush green of the poplars and other softwood trees, bushes, shrubs, and reed brings the idea of primeval forests to mind.