Upper Rhine Plain

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Upper Rhine lowlands
surface 10,612.8 km² (only D)
Systematics according to Handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany
Greater region 1st order 07–23 → Layer level land on both
sides of the Upper Rhine Rift
Greater region 2nd order 20–23 →
Upper Rhine lowlands
Natural area characteristics
Landscape type Valley basin
Geographical location
Coordinates 48 ° 57 '54 "  N , 8 ° 14' 2.4"  E Coordinates: 48 ° 57 '54 "  N , 8 ° 14' 2.4"  E
Upper Rhine lowland (western layer level land)
Upper Rhine lowlands
Natural structure of the Upper Rhine lowlands (No. 20 to 23)
state Baden-Württemberg , Rhineland-Palatinate , Hesse
Country Germany , France , Switzerland
Satellite image of the Upper Rhine lowlands and its peripheral mountains: left from below in the direction of flow in the Vosges and Palatinate Forest , right Black Forest , Kraichgau and Odenwald ; above the Rhenish Slate Mountains

The Upper Rhine Valley , especially natural area also Oberrheinisches lowland called, is a 300 km long and up wide to 40 km lowlands at the upper middle reaches of the Rhine , located between the cities of Basel ( Switzerland ) in the south and Frankfurt am Main ( Germany in) Extends north.

The plain was created by a rift valley that extends deep into the earth's crust and is filled with sediments , known as the Upper Rhine Rift .



The Upper Rhine Plain is traversed by the Rhine - from its 350 km long section of the Upper Rhine , after which it is named. The southernmost part of the plain is in northwestern Switzerland around the city of Basel, the southwestern section in the northeastern French departments of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin ( Alsace ), the northwestern part and the area east of the Rhine belong to Germany . The plain is the morphological expression of the Upper Rhine Graben , one of the largest geological structures in Central Europe (see section Rift Valley ).

In terms of natural space , the so-called Upper Rhine Lowland also includes the Rhine-Main Lowland , which follows the lower reaches of the Main to the northeast and the Wetter (northwards through the Wetterau ) upstream.

Natural structure in Germany

Oberrheingraben (blue) between Basel and Frankfurt in the midst of low mountain ranges (green to brown); Coloring according to the digital elevation model

The German parts of the Upper Rhine lowlands are structured as follows:


All major rivers in the Upper Rhine Plain have their sources in the surrounding or more distant low mountain range regions and all flow into the Rhine. The more than 200 km long tributaries are Neckar and Main on the right bank of the Rhine, Ill and Nahe on the left bank of the Rhine . There are no natural lakes ; Today's still waters are so-called quarry ponds and partly silted up Old Rhine meanders and result from industrial sand and gravel mining. Polders that were created along the Upper Rhine for flood protection can be flooded if necessary.


Almond blossom in Rheinhessen

The Upper Rhine Graben and its fringes towards the mountains are considered the warmest region in Germany. It has the warmest summers and, after the Lower Rhine, the second mildest winters with low to moderate rainfall. The annual average temperatures sometimes reach around 11 ° C; In the warmest month of July, the average values ​​are around or even just over 20 ° C, which is not achieved anywhere in Germany with the exception of a few metropolitan areas (Rhine-Main centers, Berlin-Mitte; see urban heat island ). The reason for this are frequent south-west weather conditions with air masses from the western Mediterranean area ; Foehn effects caused by falling air on the western edge of the rift valley can cause additional temperature increases. The amount of precipitation increases to the east, because there is incline rain on the eastern break edge .



  • Expansion of the earth's crust in WNW-OSE direction from 6 to 8 km
  • Lateral shift of the areas on the left bank of the Rhine to the southwest presumably <5 km
  • Lowering of the earth's surface in the trench to about 4 km, completely filled with sediments
  • Bulging of the crust-mantle boundary from initially 30 to 25 to 26 km
  • Elevation of the ditch shoulders up to 2.5 km
  • Eroded rock column on the trench shoulders up to 1.5 km

Rift valley

Western fracture to the Rhine plain south of Neustadt an der Weinstrasse : View from the Schlossberg ( 379.2  m ) to the south-southwest
Demolition of the Upper Rhine ditch development

The Oberrheingraben is one of the central segments of a rift zone that extends from the North Sea to the western Mediterranean ( Mediterranean-Mjosen Zone ). The previous thesis that a subcrustal heat source ( plume ) was responsible for the formation ( active rifting ) is not tenable according to more recent findings from geophysics and geodynamics . Rather, the reason for the formation of the rift zone were tensile stresses in the earth's crust and mantle , which led to so-called passive rifting , an expansion of the earth's crust which also resulted in its thinning. Because of this, the surface of the earth subsided in the rift zone. In contrast, the crust-mantle boundary ( Moho ) bulged under the ditch.

In the area of ​​the Upper Rhine Graben, the areas to the west and east to the shoulders of the Vosges / Palatinate Forest and Black Forest / Odenwald were raised at the same time . Part of the resulting relief was compensated for by sedimentation that took place in the sunken trench and erosion of the raised shoulders.

The formation of the Upper Rhine Rift began over 50 million years ago. It essentially took place in two phases:

In phase I, 50 to 20 million years ago, Central Europe was subject to an expansion regime. The expansion was localized in the Upper Rhine Graben area at existing faults . Over the entire length of the trench between Frankfurt and Basel, the surface of the earth subsided and sediments were deposited. The peripheral areas rose to form ditch shoulders.

With the transition to phase II, the stretching was replaced by a blade displacement regime . The areas west of the Upper Rhine Rift (Alsace, Palatinate , Rheinhessen ) shifted to the southwest relative to the areas on the right bank of the Rhine. The further subsidence in the trench was limited to the trench segment north of the city of Karlsruhe . In contrast, the other sections of the trench, including the shoulders at the edge, were subject to uplift and erosion. The blade shift regime is still active today. However, in the recent geological past the size and direction of the stresses in the earth has changed slightly, so that sedimentation takes place again in the entire trench area.


Earthquake zones in Germany according to DIN 4149

The Upper Rhine Graben is an area of ​​increased seismicity . The earthquakes are generally of low strength and intensity (according to the MSK scale ). A magnitude 3 earthquake occurs on average every few months and can be felt by people in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter . Approximately every ten years, nationally perceptible seismic tremors with strengths greater than 5 and slight damage are to be expected.

The region around Basel and the adjacent Swiss Jura is an exception . Quakes occurred there in the Middle Ages and modern times, which - like the Basel earthquake of 1356 - caused considerable destruction. It is assumed that these earthquakes are connected with the ongoing thrust of the Swiss Jura onto the southern Upper Rhine Rift.

Earthquakes are triggered in large areas of the Upper Rhine Rift down to depths of around 15 km. At even greater depths, the rocks deform due to the high temperatures due to extensive creeping. An offset of rock layers along faults, which would be a prerequisite for the occurrence of earthquakes, no longer occurs in the Upper Rhine Graben area.


Remains of former volcanoes are widespread in southwest Germany with the Upper Rhine Rift Valley (e.g. Kaiserstuhl , Hegau , Swabian Volcano , Steinsberg , Katzenbuckel , Pechsteinkopf ). Most volcanic rocks are around 40 million years old, a second volcanic peak was 18 to 14 million years ago. The magmas come almost exclusively from a part of the earth's mantle that has melted up to 2% ( asthenosphere ). It is located below southwest Germany at depths of over 70 km. The magmas rose from these depths almost unchanged to the surface of the earth and solidified mainly as nephelinites and melilithites . Other magma compositions only developed locally during the ascent (e.g. at the Kaiserstuhl).

In the area of ​​the northern Upper Rhine Graben there are volcanic relics, some of which are still dated to the Upper Cretaceous and are related to the early phase of the rift formation.

Rift formation can lead to the development of thermal anomalies in the earth's mantle due to the thinning of the earth's crust. The anomalies cause the production of igneous melts and volcanism on the earth's surface. In the Upper Rhine Rift Valley, however, no such thermal anomaly arose because the Earth's mantle cooled down as it rose due to the slow expansion. It is more likely that there is a connection between volcanism and the formation of the Alps , because important geological events in the Alpine region coincided with the peak of volcanic activity in southwest Germany.


Economic regions

View along the Rhine plain from Fremersberg in the northern Black Forest to Melibokus in the Odenwald, 112 km away

The Upper Rhine Plain is part of the so-called "Blue Europe Banana" , a European economic and development zone that extends from the Irish Sea to the Mediterranean . In the densely populated Rhine plain, these include the following important economic regions : the trinational metropolitan region of Upper Rhine with the cities of Strasbourg , Mulhouse and Colmar (F), Karlsruhe and Freiburg (D) and Basel (CH), in Germany the metropolitan region of Rhine-Neckar with Mannheim and Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg as well as the Rhine-Main area with Frankfurt am Main , Offenbach , Darmstadt , Mainz and Wiesbaden .

Natural resources


The Upper Rhine Rift is covered with very young sediments. The sand and gravel that make up the aquifer come from the Ice Age of the Pleistocene and the present, the Holocene . In the area between Basel and Frankfurt , the local groundwater covers more than three quarters of the drinking water needs of the population (in Alsace , Baden-Württemberg, Rhineland-Palatinate and Hesse) and more than half of the water required by local industry. The irrigation of the numerous agriculturally used areas takes place almost entirely from the groundwater with the exception of large areas in the Vorderpfalz , which are irrigated with Rhine water. The precipitation flows like a funnel from the plateaus and the peripheral mountains underground and over numerous brooks and small rivers into the Rhine plain and feeds a huge groundwater reservoir.

The aquifer is made up of several layers of sand and gravel of different grain sizes with layers of clay and silt, often meter thick, in between. Its base (bottom) lies in the Karlsruhe area between 70 m and 260 m depth , reaches a depth of more than 500 m in the Mannheim / Heidelberg (Heidelberger Loch) area and rises again to the north. Drinking water wells are expanded to a depth of 300 m and even up to 400 m. The problem here is the increasing temperature of the water due to the so-called geothermal gradient ( geothermal depth ), which is higher in the Upper Rhine Rift (tectonic weak zone). The groundwater from the lower alternating layers (> 100/150 m) is well protected, almost free from environmental pollution, of excellent quality (except for regional geogenic influences such as arsenic, methane, brackish water) and, depending on the depth of abstraction, was last between 5,000 and 20,000 Participated in the natural cycle for years.

The upper Rhine aquifer with an estimated size of 45 billion m 3 one of the largest aquifer in Central Europe. Its water level can usually be found a few meters below the surface of the earth, in floodplains , upwelling sources and lakes also above ground. The so-called corridor distance is very different and larger in the south of the area.

In the Hessian Ried , the water procurement association Riedgruppe Ost, in cooperation with Hessenwasser, makes a significant contribution to the drinking water supply of the Rhine-Main area . At the same time, the Hessisches Ried water board in the Biebesheim waterworks takes up to 5400 m 3 of water per hour from the Rhine for the purpose of groundwater recharge . This corresponds to a thousandth of the mean flow rate on this section of the river.


Crude oil was and still is found primarily in deeper layers, but in some cases also near the surface . The deposits in Merkwiller-Pechelbronn (Alsace) have been documented since 1498 and are among the first to be exploited worldwide. The name Pechelbronn means "pitch well" and refers to the oil emerging from the earth. After this oldest oil source, the deposits in the Upper Rhine Graben are called Pechelbronn layers . Between 1952 and 1994 and again since 2018, crude oil is produced in the Hessian Ried , and until 1979 also natural gas. Even today, small amounts of oil are produced near Landau in the Palatinate , and since 2008 also at Speyer .

In view of rising raw material prices and running out of crude oil resources , crude oil is being sought again in the Rhine plain, for example since 2011 by the companies Geopetrol and Millennium Geoventure near Soufflenheim in Alsace. As of December 2011, the Polish company Geofizyka Toruń operated three-dimensional seismic surveys on behalf of Rhein Petroleum from Heidelberg as part of the “Oil search on the northern Upper Rhine” project in order to verify oil reserves.

Geothermal energy

The use of geothermal energy began recently : In the area of ​​the Upper Rhine aquifer, several pilot projects in low-enthalpy deposits using the so-called hot-dry-rock method (HDR) are being tested. So went z. E.g. in Soultz-sous-Forêts in Alsace (France) the geothermal power plant was connected to the grid in 2008; another is being built in Rittershofen north of Strasbourg , as well as one in Landau ( Rhineland-Palatinate ).

The uplift cracks in Staufen im Breisgau arose in the foothills of the Black Forest . A drilling project in Kleinhüningen near Basel ( Deep Heat Mining Basel ) was stopped after the earthquake generated.

Gravel, sand and clay

Along the Rhine, gravel and sand was and is being extracted in large quantities in order to be used as building material. Therefore, there are many quarry ponds , especially along the A5 , which are often open for swimming. Some gold is also extracted from the Rhine pebbles . Clay , which used to be used for the manufacture of ceramic dishes , is now mined to a very limited extent for the manufacture of bricks .

Food and luxury food production

Viticulture, here in the southern Palatinate
Promotion of asparagus sprouting by covering with foil

Thanks to the moderate climate with a long period of sunshine and the more than sufficient water supply from the Upper Rhine aquifer, the Upper Rhine Graben has very good conditions for the production of food and beverages . The fertile soils have made agriculture possible since ancient times ; the area is used for agriculture up to half of its area .

On specialty crops especially to wine , asparagus , plums , sweet and sour cherries , strawberries , various vegetables , hops and tobacco grown. With Rheinhessen , the Palatinate and Baden , the three largest German wine-growing regions in this order are almost entirely located in the Upper Rhine Graben. In addition to grapevines , the favorable climatic conditions also allow almond trees , figs and chestnuts to flourish and bear fruit in the open air . The sprouting of the asparagus is increasingly shifted forward by covering the fields with plastic film , which promotes soil warming.


Upper Rhine plain, view over vineyards on the western edge near Neustadt an der Weinstrasse :
in the middle distance two wind turbines near Haßloch , in the background Mannheim with its large power station , behind the Odenwald
The Freiburger Bay , View from the Black Forest over Freiburg westward: Links of the foothills counting Schoenberg , in the middle of the Kaiserstuhl , on the horizon faintly discernible the Vosges , right behind the Lahr-Emmendinger foothills , passing in the Middle Black Forest

Web links

Wiktionary: Upper Rhine level  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Sources and individual references

General sources

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Emil Meynen , Josef Schmithüsen : Handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany . Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Remagen / Bad Godesberg 1953–1962 (9 deliveries in 8 books, updated map 1: 1,000,000 with main units 1960).
  2. summed up from the units 20, 21, 22 and the main units of 23, which in the manual (3rd delivery) is not listed as a group with area numbers; apparently without French shares
  3. Various authors: Geographische Landesaufnahme: The natural spatial units in single sheets 1: 200,000 . Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1952–1994. → Online maps
    • Sheet 138: Koblenz (Heinrich Müller-Miny, Martin Bürgener 1971; 82 pages)
    • Sheet 139: Frankfurt a. M. (Brigitte Schwenzer 1967; 35 pages)
    • Sheet 150: Mainz (Harald Uhlig 1964; 39 pages)
    • Sheet 151: Darmstadt (Otto Klausing 1967; 61 pages) * Sheet 152: Würzburg (Horst Mensching, Günter Wagner 1963; 45 pages)
    • Sheet 160: Landau id Pfalz (Adalbert Pemöller 1969; 47 pages)
    • Sheet 161: Karlsruhe ( Josef Schmithüsen 1952; 24 pages)
    • Sheet 169: Rastatt (Heinz Fischer 1967; 31 pages)
    • Sheet 170: Stuttgart (Friedrich Huttenlocher, Hansjörg Dongus 1967; 76 pages)
    • Sheet 177: Offenburg (Heinz Fischer, Hans-Jürgen Klink 1967; 48 pages)
    • Sheet 185: Freiburg i. Br. ( Günther Reichelt 1964; 47 pages)
  4. Map and legend of the natural areas of Hesse (online copy of Die Naturraum Hessens , Otto Klausing 1988) in the Hessen Environmental Atlas of the Hessian State Office for Environment and Geology
  5. Map service of the landscape information system of the Rhineland-Palatinate nature conservation administration (LANIS map) ( notes )
  6. Landscape profile of the large landscape 22 of the landscape information system of the Rhineland-Palatinate nature conservation administration ( notes )
  7. The original unit 228 Unteres Naheland comprised the current units 227.0, 228 and 229 as well as 1964 before 1964 (sheet Mainz).
  8. Originally the main unit was called Ronneburger Hügelland , which is now only the name for the sub-unit 233.0.
  9. State Office for Geology, Raw Materials and Mining Baden-Württemberg: Map "Damage earthquake since 1000 AD in Baden-Württemberg". (JPG; 200 kB) Retrieved November 22, 2015 .
  10. State Office for Geology, Raw Materials and Mining Baden-Württemberg, Earthquake Service Department: Map “Earthquake Zones in Baden-Württemberg”. (PDF; 2.19 MB) Ministry of the Interior of Baden-Württemberg, 2005, accessed on November 22, 2015 .
  11. ^ Gottfried Hofbauer: Volcanoes in Germany . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2016, ISBN 978-3-534-26824-5 , pp. 209-211 .
  12. Hodrogeologische mapping and groundwater management in the Rhine-Nckar room , updating 1983-1998, Ministry of Environment and Transport Baden-Wuerttemberg; Hessian Ministry for Environment, Agriculture and Forests; Ministry of Environment and Forests Rhineland-Palatinate Mainz; Stuttgart, Wiesbaden, Mainz, 1999
  13. a b c d The Oberrheingraben: The groundwater in the Oberrheingraben ( Memento of the original from August 29, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , lubw.baden-wuerttemberg.de, State Institute for the Environment, Measurements and Nature Conservation Baden-Wuerttemberg, July 29, 2011 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.lubw.baden-wuerttemberg.de
  14. a b Conseil Régional d'Alsace, State Institute for Environmental Protection Baden-Württemberg: La nappe phréatique rhénane - The groundwater in the Upper Rhine Rift, edition 04.1998, A.1: Interesting facts about the groundwater in the Upper Rhine Rift (July 29, 2011)
  15. Schwarzbach borehole. Retrieved March 18, 2019 .
  16. Werner Kurzlechner: The Ried as a former oil production area. In: FAZ.net. August 13, 2004, accessed March 17, 2011 .
  17. Bärbel Nückles: High oil prices let the oil in northern Alsace gush again. In: Badische Zeitung, Local, Alsace. September 18, 2011, accessed September 23, 2011 .
  18. Ulrike van Weelden: Don't be afraid of Martians: Now they are drilling for oil. (No longer available online.) In: Bürstädter Zeitung, Region, Bürstadt. September 15, 2011, archived from the original on November 4, 2012 ; Retrieved December 2, 2011 . Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.buerstaedter-zeitung.de
  19. Ulrike Ehrlacher: Geothermal project - Badenova plans test drilling at the Rimsinger Egg , badische-zeitung.de, September 15, 2009, accessed on October 17, 2010
  20. Bärbel Nückles: Alsace builds on geothermal energy , badische-zeitung.de, January 2, 2013, accessed on January 4, 2013