Rehabilitation of the post-mining landscape of Lower Lusatia (Brandenburg, Germany) represents a complex problem: 85 per cent of this area is currently being recultivated for forests or agriculture and 15 per cent is reserved for nature development. After mining, soil conditions are dry, acidic and nutrient poor. The ‘LENAB’ project aimed at conservation strategies and management options for natural habitats. Two competing basic motives of nature conservation on a small or medium scale were defined: (1) close-to-naturalness (allowing natural dynamics to take place without human interference) and (2) biodiversity (selective species and habitat protection). An overall strategy for sustainability of a cultural landscape can only be applied to the entire post-mining landscape. The application of the two basic motives leads to different management options; this is illustrated by two important vegetation types. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.