Journal article

Is there a future for wild grapevine (Vitis vinifera subsp. silvestris) in the Rhine Valley?

The wild grapevine, Vitis vinifera L. subsp. silvestris (Gmelin) Hegi, is considered to be an endangered taxon in Europe, mainly as a consequence of the introduction of pathogens from North America and of the destruction of its habitat. In the Rhine Valley, nearly all populations disappeared due to river management, the intensi.cation of forestry, and the introduction of phylloxera. After a growing awareness of the need to preserve endangered forest ecosystems, attempts to reintroduce wild grapevine in the Rhine Valley were performed, particularly in the French nature reserves Erstein and Offendorf since 1992. However, regular surveys of the plants indicate the rapid decline of the populations. In 2002, we proposed to summarise the knowledge accumulated after 10 years of experiments. Results indicate that from the initial 91 individuals planted in 1992, only 14 survived in 2002 (2 in Erstein, 12 in Offendorf). The failure of the experiment may be explained by several factors: unsuitable sites (too shady, absence of support for the young plants), absence of monitoring, vandalism or predation. According to these results and recent knowledge of the ecology of the plant and of vines in general, new transplantation experiments are proposed in which the plants will be monitored during their establishment in the forests. The success of this second transplant (50 plants per reserve) will be enhanced by restoration projects of the Rhine River dynamics, with partial re-flooding. Floods should help to avoid, or at least to reduce, pest and disease expansion on future adult plants.


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