In the middle of Germany, at the southern area of the Harz Mountains, we find a unique biotope, the Southern Harz Gypsum Karst Region. Here creeks suddenly disappear between rock clefts to come up again as a karst well at a different place.
Whole lakes can suddenly fall dry – but within a few weeks, they are full of water again. The break-in of subsurface hollows and rock clefts causes depressions and sinkholes, into which whole trees and meadows disappear.
Opposed to other German karst regions, this one is formed by gypsum and not by limestone and dolomite. As gypsum is about 100 times as soluble as limestone, the process of karst formation is a lot quicker than in other karst regions. Dry grass areas, rocks, ravine forests and hollows make up a mosaic of different biotopes on a very small area. The specialities of the climate intensify the complex shape of the region.
In the Southern Harz Gypsum Karst Region continental steppe plants meet Mediterranean plants and Eurasian subatlantic plants. On top of that we can find relicts of the ice age, plants that could only survive on escarpments exposed to the north.