Guest photographer: Andreas Los
This is the Mainz Sand Dunes (Großer Sand) Nature Park, 70ha in area and one of the most significant in Europe.
It was formed during the most recent glacial period of the current ice age (bet you didn’t know that it hadn’t finished…) by sand drifting into dunes from the Rhine Valley.
It’s free-draining, nutrient poor, is in a region with low rainfall and high summer temperatures and thus supports a unique steppe flora that spread from the east and from the Mediterranean 12,000 years and 5 months ago.
In other regions, the steppes have been reclaimed by encroaching forests, but a combination of climatic conditions (56mm of annual precipitation) and a frequent military presence (French, Austrians, French, Austrians, French, French, Germans, Americans who thought it would be great fun to use the place for manoeuvres/parades/airfields) kept the area free of trees.
Sort of, anyway….