The Life+ Nature Project "Heide-Allianz" contains sections of seven Natura 2000 areas between Nördlingen and Donauwörth. These are the most valuable conservation areas of the southern Nördlinger Ries, the neighbouring Swabian-Franconian Alb and the Wörnitz Valley between Heroldingen and Donauwörth. In all, the project region encompasses an area of 3554 hectares.
Nördlinger Ries with Swabian-Franconian Alb
14.5 million years ago, an asteroid struck the north-east of what is now Nördlingen. The impact was so violent that it left a crater around 25 kilometres in diameter, which remains highly visible to this day: the Nördlinger Ries, one of the most well-preserved impact craters anywhere in the world. The meteor strike projected rock masses several kilometres, so that the environment of the Nördlinger Ries now exhibits a chaotic mix of rock debris – in particular beyond the southern and south-eastern crater edge on the neighbouring Swabian-Franconian Alb. This resulted in particularly special geological conditions and a landscape heavily divided up into individual peaks, which characterise the "Heide-Allianz" Life+ Nature Project region and make it so unique.
In contrast to the level crater basin, which is predominantly intensively used for agriculture, the crater edge and pronounced peaks are home to richly structured deciduous and mixed forests, as well as sparse and dry habitats, which are highly valuable from a nature conservation perspective. Particularly characteristic of this area are the Juniper communis formations on calcareous grasslands, which immediately catch the eye of all those who visit this region. These are the result of centuries-old use of the area for shepherding. Together with exposed rock formations, sparse lowland hay meadows, fens and Molinia meadows in the vicinity of source outcrops, as well as a wide range of richly structured forests, an exceptionally diverse range of habitats exist here. This is reflected in the equally rich world of flora and fauna.
The Wörnitz Valley separates the Swabian and Franconian Alb and therefore exhibits connections with both natural areas. The Wörnitz Valley in a north-south direction is highly significant to the biotope network, because it connects the Danube Valley with the natural areas of northern Bavaria via the Nördlinger Ries. The Wörnitz Valley is a highly significant, intra-regional complex of high quality river and floodplain cohabitations. The Wörnitz remains relatively natural in terms of the structure and flooding dynamics. The floodplains are dominated by grassland use. Particularly relevant habitat types are sparse lowland hay meadows, which are characterised by so-called "river valley species" – generally highly endangered plant species, which naturally prevail in the alluvial areas of large rivers. The backwaters constitute a further important landscape element: these are the habitat of a characteristic community of plants and animals.