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Press release

Comprehensive ecological restoration of Billerbeck Published on 13 August 2021

bremenports implements compensatory mitigation measures at a tributary of the River Lune

Ideal habitat conditions for flora and fauna in a meandering stream instead of a largely channelled watercourse that is low in species diversity: that was the objective of a compensatory mitigation project implemented by the port management company bremenports along the middle and upper reaches of the River Billerbeck. The organisations and companies involved recently held a small ceremony to celebrate the official conclusion of the project.

The Billerbeck is a small tributary on the left bank of the River Lune. It runs for a total length of around 11 km, has a catchment area of 41.33 km² and is situated in the rural districts of Osterholz and Cuxhaven. It runs through the municipalities of Axstedt, Holste (Oldendorf village) and Beverstedt (Bokel village). As a special area of conservation and nature reserve, the area is subject to special protection under nature conservation legislation.
A supplementary plan was drawn up in cooperation with the organisation responsible for the upkeep of the River Lune for the restoration of the available plots of land along the roughly 5-km long reach of the Billerbeck between the culverts under the railway line to the south of Stubben and north-east of Axstedt.

View of the Billerbeck after restoration

Comprehensive ecological restoration of the Billerbeck began in July 2019 and involved the aquatic system of the river itself as well as various subprojects in the neighbouring areas. The overall plans also included measures to redesign Stubben ditch and Oldendorf stream as well as an adjacent peatland.
The Billerbeck was re-routed along a length of 2850 metres so that it now meanders again. 30 ground sills and deadwood were incorporated to change the course of the river. Seven stagnant pond and 25 shallow pools were created in the surrounding area. Surplus topsoil from the area around the river was used to improve the soil structure on arable land. Soils containing peat and loam were taken to a nearby bog to encourage the development of peatland. The project involved moving around 30,000 m² of soil and has converted what was once a monotonous, straight watercourse into a near-natural stream with good structural diversity.

The floodplains bordering the River Billerbeck will evolve into premium grassland and woodland habitats. Low-nutrient succession areas were created next to the watercourse and will allow the gradual development of a natural site.
The work carried out on the River Billerbeck itself will optimise its suitability as a habitat for plants and animals. Species diversity and fish stocks are also expected to improve, for instance with a significant increase in stocks of lampreys, a protected species of fish. The project has also created suitable conditions for potential colonisation by sea trout. The planned improvement in fish stocks is also likely to attract an increasing number of kingfishers, and the Billerbeck will also provide an excellent habitat for otters. This project will also improve the living conditions for pond bats, a species protected by the Habitats Directive, as well as the bird species snipe and green sandpiper.

bremenports Managing Director Robert Howe regards the restoration of the Billerbeck as a key element in substantiating the necessary mitigation for negative impact on nature resulting from port construction projects. “We want our compensatory mitigation measures to set high standards. Our aim is for port development and nature conservation to work hand in hand. This provides the necessary planning reliability for port projects and simultaneously creates a natural habitat where biodiversity can continue to evolve.”

bremenports was entirely satisfied with the construction work, which was handled by the Schichtmann and Grube consortium in close consultation with the public authorities and municipalities involved, as well as the local landowners and leaseholders. The project remained within budget.