Norbert Prauser announces “shocking images” at the beginning of his lecture. Then the tree protection expert from the environmental association BUND shows a photo of the “frog pond” in Grunewald, at the bottom of which the bushes are brown after a fire. The Waldorfpark pond in Mahlsdorf is a dusty depression, the Artuspfuhl in Frohnau is an overgrown forest clearing, the Steinberg pond in Pankow-Heinersdorf is a thicket of reeds.
In the past two years, the BUND has examined 353 small bodies of water in six of the twelve districts of Berlin – pools, ponds, ponds, ponds and reservoirs, mostly with an area of significantly less than one hectare. Almost half of them have serious shortcomings.
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The problems are different: climate change has swept away some pits with longer and longer dry periods and higher evaporation due to higher temperatures. Others have had their water cut off by increasing sealing in the area, while others simply have to be freed from the reeds, which were once in demand as building material but are now a cost factor.
Reed isn’t bad in itself, “but frogs need water and sun,” says Prauser. When he mentions frogs, he means other species, such as toads and newts. They die out locally when their territory dries up and no alternative quarters are available in the neighborhood.
According to the BUND, the fact that the defect rate remained just under 50 percent is due to the positive exception of Steglitz-Zehlendorf. In the southwest district, only 28 percent are problematic. As a particularly pleasing example, Prauser shows the Fischtalteich, where fields of water lilies and cattails alternate with open water.
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At the other extreme is Marzahn-Hellersdorf with a defect rate of 68 percent. Prauser praises that the Senate has at least commissioned an investigation into the rescue of the Hönower Weiherkette, and otherwise holds back from assigning blame. But he states that years ago, many bodies of water were assigned to the care of the district offices, which had neither experts nor maintenance capacities for them.
The situation with the street trees, which were once just as neglected, has already improved. A comparable effort is now also necessary for the waters – to save what can be saved.
In Tempelhof-Schoeneberg and Neukölln, some pools are even registered as natural monuments and are therefore formally specially protected. But even their condition is partly desolate, as a Tagesspiegel research showed in the spring. In the BUND report, the two districts have defect rates of 47 and 42 percent.
Lichtenberg and Reinickendorf were also examined, which the BUND attested to have defect rates of 51 and 46 percent. The fact that not all districts have been considered is a question of capacity, says Prauser. Especially since there is not even a complete list of all small bodies of water in the country. According to BUND, 435 are registered; in real terms it should be around 700 – if still available.
When asked by the Tagesspiegel, the Senate Department for the Environment confirmed that there is actually no complete overview of the ecological status of all small bodies of water. What is there, however, is “knowledge and studies of a considerable part of it, as well as measures already taken”, partly by the Senate and districts together.
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The central problem is the lack of water due to climate change, which affects almost all of Berlin’s standing water bodies. “In particular, the dry years from 2018 to 2020 made the problem even worse.” In addition, there are building developments that threaten valuable habitats.
As a countermeasure, decentralized rainwater management is already being worked on, i.e. infiltration on the spot. For some bodies of water, the introduction of pre-cleaned rainwater from the surrounding area is being examined. The Senate also refers to the “Blue Pearls for Berlin” project, in which small flowing and standing water bodies are ecologically upgraded – for amphibians as well as for Berliners looking for relaxation. 30 water bodies have been selected for this, two as pilot projects, namely the Schleipfuhl/Feldweiher water body complex in Marzahn-Hellersdorf and the Lankegrabenteich in Steglitz-Zehlendorf. Both are in preparation; “Implementation is planned for 2023/24”.