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Distribution and status of the adder Vipera berus in Lower Saxony, Bremen and the southern part of Hamburg northwest Germany Verbreitung and Bestandssituation der Kreuzotter Vipera berus in Niedersachsen unter Beruecksichtigungvon Bremen and dem suedlichen Hamburg

, : Distribution and status of the adder Vipera berus in Lower Saxony, Bremen and the southern part of Hamburg northwest Germany Verbreitung and Bestandssituation der Kreuzotter Vipera berus in Niedersachsen unter Beruecksichtigungvon Bremen and dem suedlichen Hamburg. Mertensiella. 1 Dezember; 15: 36-47

The historical and recent distribution of the adder (Vipera berus) in Lower Saxony is described, together with comments on the occurrence of this species in Bremen and the southern part of Hamburg (south of the river Elbe). Due to the former presence of extensive bogs and heathlands, influenced by an Atlantic climate, the adder was once widespread and comparatively abundant in the Lower Saxony lowlands, with the area between the rivers Elbe, Weser and Ems forming a major distribution centre in Germany. Even today, the adder remains common in the natural area "Stader Geest" and on Luneburg heath. However, the distribution of this species becomes distinctly sparse in the "Weser-Aller lowlands" and between the river Weser and the Dutch border, with adders mostly restricted to remnant bog habitats. This snake is naturally rare in the fringe bogs of coastal marshes and is entirely absent from the East Frisian islands. adders are similarly rare in the mountainous Weser and Leine regions as well as in the Harz Mountains. The altitudinal distribution of the adder in Lower Saxony extends from 3 m a.s.l. in the Oldenburg region up to about 820 m a.s.l. in the Harz Mountains. The adder is now extinct in the state of Bremen and only occurs on one or two sites along the southern state boundary of Hamburg. In Lower Saxony the adder is an inhabitant of "forest-heathland-bog-complexes" and particularly favours the edges of raised bogs and their drained or excavated and degenerated stages, heathland, open woodland and similarly poor biotopes. Overall, the adder populations in the area concerned have declined markedly within the last 100 years. This is locally due to the former systematic persecution of this species, but is mainly the result of the wholesale destruction of its key habitats. Over 90 % of raised bogs and more than 99 % of heathland have been destroyed in the last 120 years, mainly by excavation and changes in land-use to agriculture and forestry. In addition, road building and development, as well as local recreational pressures, have led to the increasing fragmentation and degradation of remaining sites. Furthermore, the natural succession of surviving open biotopes through scrub encroachment and afforestation has also contributed to the decline of adder populations. As a result, the adder is currently categorized as "threatened" in the Red Data List of Lower Saxony and "critically endangered" in Hamburg.

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