Today’s impression of intact nature conceals the extreme exploitation and pollution of this natural area in past eras. While the forest on the slopes of the Wupper was used as a source of fuel and building material, as well as charcoal for separating iron from ore since the 13th century, the river’s water power was utilized to work metal products in small workshops directly along the Wupper. By 1800 the onetime forests had given way to a treeless wasteland and the increasing quantities of industrial wastewater transformed the Wupper into a lifeless sewer until the 1970s.
The first reforesting efforts starting in the mid-19th century marked the commencement of the gradual recovery of the forest. Mature rushwood-beech forests, rich in old-growth trees and deadwood, remained in only a few sections of the valley whose extreme slopes made them inaccessible and thus of little interest for wood harvesting for a long time. Today, the state land-use authorities and the forestry offices of the cities of Remscheid and Solingen, along with the forestry operation Landesbetrieb Wald und Holz, collaborate systematically with the biological stations to develop a natural forest ecology in line with the FFH status of this region.
The regeneration of the Wupper began with the reduction of the pollution load through the construction of water treatment plants and other water protection actions in the second half of the 20th century. Animals and plants like the bullhead and the pond water-crowfoot returned to the Wupper. The Wupperverband association, the local land-use and water authorities and the biological stations are striving to further improve the Wupper as an environment for plants and animals.