The Bavarian administrative office of the Rhön Biosphere Reserve and the University of Würzburg are leading a study of the species communities of the blockfields in the Bavarian Rhön and Fichtelgebirge. With a survey of lichens, mosses, spiders and beetles of these climatic extreme sites, we investigate species composition and islanding effects and perform population genetic analyses of the garden dormouse based on hair samples.
Only a few places in Europe are still remnants of a "primeval landscape" and habitats that have survived almost unchanged since the retreat of the glaciers at the end of the last cold period. These include blockfields, which are completely free of soil and fine material, and are among the few naturally tree-free terrestrial habitats in Central Europe and represent the most microclimatically extreme locations in the Rhön UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Due to these extreme temperature fluctuations and insular cold refugia, these habitats are highly specialised biotopes that harbour cool-adapted Ice Age relicts and are potentially highly threatened as a result of climate change.
However, there is hardly any further knowledge about the species composition of these extreme habitats of the Rhön that are particularly threatened by climatic changes. These blockfields ecosystems represent ideal objects of biogeographical and ecological research, owing to their special microclimate, and to the minimal degree of man-made disturbance.