• developmental potentials;
  • knowledge transfer;
  • near-natural restoration methods;
  • opencast lignite mining areas;
  • restoration targets;
  • succession


This paper focuses on attempts to encourage a new state of the art in the ecological restoration of surface-mined land in Germany. On most of these sites, the application of traditional recultivation methods often destroys valuable ecological potential by leveling of the surface, ameliorating of nutrient-poor substrates, and seeding or planting of species not suited to the present habitat conditions. Many studies have shown that even highly disturbed ecosystems, such as large mining areas, can regenerate spontaneously over long-term periods. Colonization processes were influenced by the availability of diaspore sources as well as the suitability of sites for establishment. The predictability of succession could be improved by the identification of switch points in successional pathways depending on age and conditions of the sites. Based on the developmental potential, orientation by nature and biodiversity are selected as main targets for priority areas for nature conservation in mining sites. On priority areas restoration measures must be restricted to the use of near-natural methods (e.g., application of fresh, diaspore-rich plant clipping material, dumping of overburden with seed bank and vegetative propagules, seeding of site-specific, local seed mixtures) that are very successful in preventing erosion and accelerating vegetation development. Despite the success of these methods, the transfer of knowledge between scientists, practitioners, and administrative organizations has proved to be insufficient. Therefore, one of the main tasks in ecological restoration must be the inclusion of all stakeholders involved in decision-making processes and the establishment of a network of excellence to enhance the exchange of knowledge.