Upper Rhine Plain

The Upper Rhine Valley, especially the natural area known as Upper Rhine lowlands, is an approximately 300 km long and up to 40 km wide lowlands along the middle reaches of the Rhine between the cities of Basel ( Switzerland ) and Frankfurt am Main ( Germany ). Geologically, it represents a profound break in the earth's crust grave, which is referred to as the Upper Rhine Graben.

  • 2.1 characteristics
  • 2.2 grave breach
  • 2.3 earthquake
  • 2.4 volcanism
  • 3.1 Economic Regions
  • 3.2 Natural Resources 3.2.1 groundwater
  • 3.2.2 petroleum
  • 3.2.3 geothermal
  • 3.2.4 gravel and clay
  • 5.1 General sources
  • 5.2 Notes and references


Geographical location

The Upper Rhine Valley is from the Rhine River - flows through - and that of his approximately 350 km section of the Upper Rhine. The southernmost part of the plain is located in the north-western Switzerland to the city of Basel, the southwestern section is located in the north-eastern French region of Alsace, the northwestern part and the whole area east of the Rhine belong to Germany. The level is the morphological expression of the major geological structure in Central Europe, the Upper Rhine Graben.

Geographically, comprises the so-called Upper Rhine lowlands and the Rhine -Main- lowland to the northeast to the lower reaches of the River Main and the weather ( Wetterau ) upriver follows.

Nature regions in Germany

The German units of the Upper Rhine lowlands are broken down as follows:

  • D53 Oberrheinisches lowlands ( Upper Rhine and Main Graben) 20 Southern Upper Rhine Lowland 200 Markgraefler Rhine valley
  • 201 Markgraefler hills
  • 202 Freiburg Bay
  • 203 Emperor chair
  • 210 Rhine valley
  • 211 Lahr- Emmendinger Foothills
  • 212 Ortenau Buhler Foothills
  • 220 Haardtrand
  • 221 Front Palatinate lowlands
  • 222 Northern Upper Rhine valley
  • 223 Hardt levels
  • 224 Neckar -Rhine- level
  • 225 Hessian Rhine valley
  • 226 Mountain Road
  • 227 Alzey hills
  • 228 Lower Naheland
  • 230 Messeler hills
  • 231 Reinheimer hills
  • 232 Lower Main level
  • 233 Büdingen Sea Holzer hills
  • 234 Wetterau
  • 235 Main-Taunus foothills
  • 236 Rheingau
  • 237 Ingelheim Rhine valley


All major streams in the Upper Rhine Valley have their sources in the surrounding or in remote mountain regions and lead all into the Rhine. The more than 200 km of tributaries are the right bank of the Neckar and Main, linksrheinisch Ill and Nahe. Natural lakes there is not; Still today the waters are called lakes and result from industrial sand and gravel mining. Polders that were created along the Upper Rhine flood protection may be flooded if necessary.


Have the Upper Rhine Graben and its edges to the mountains towards the mildest winter and the warmest summer in Germany at low to moderate rainfall. The average annual temperatures can reach partially at 11 ° C; in the warmest month of July are the average values ​​at or even slightly above 20 ° C, with the exception climatically favored metropolitan areas (Rhein -Main centers, Berlin -Mitte) will not reach anywhere in Germany. This is caused by frequent Southwest weather conditions with air masses from the western Mediterranean; Foehn effects of sinking air at the western edge grave breach may result in additional increases in temperature. The rainfall east to take out because it is on the eastern slope breakline to rain.



  • Stretching of the earth's crust in WNW- ESE direction from 6 up to 8 km
  • Lateral displacement of the left bank of the Rhine to the southwest probably <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 an initial 30 to 25 up to 26 km
  • Raising the grave shoulders up to 2.5 km
  • Eroded rock pillar on the grave shoulders up to 1.5 km

Grave breach

The Upper Rhine Graben is one of the key segments of a grave fault zone that extends from the North Sea in the western Mediterranean ( Mediterranean Mjösen zone). The responsible earlier stated hypothesis that the emergence of a subkrustale heat source ( Plume ) is (active rifting ), is untenable, according to recent findings from the geophysics and geodynamics. Cause of the development of the grave area were rather tensile stresses in the Earth's crust and mantle, which led to the so-called passive rifting, a stretching of the earth's crust, which had its thinning result. This is why the earth's surface lowered into the grave area. In contrast, the crust - mantle boundary ( Moho ) vaulted to below the trench.

In the area of ​​the Upper Rhine Graben areas were uplifted to the west and east to the grave shoulders of Vosges / Palatinate Forest or Schwarzwald / Odenwald at the same time. A portion of the resulting relief was offset by sedimentation, which took place in the sunken trench in, as well as erosion of the upper shoulders.

The emergence of the Upper Rhine Graben began about 35 million years. It proceeded in two main phases:

In Phase I, 35-20 million years ago, there was a strain regimes in Central Europe. The strain was localized to existing distortions in the Upper Rhine area grave. It came over the entire length of the trench between Frankfurt and Basel to a lowering of the ground surface and deposition of sediments. The rand union territories lifted out to grave shoulders.

With the transition into Phase II, the strain was replaced by a strike-slip regime. The areas west of the Upper Rhine Graben (Alsace, Palatinate, Rheinhessen ) shifted relative to the right bank of the Rhine to the southwest. Any further reduction in the trench was limited to the grave segment north of the city of Karlsruhe. In contrast, subject to the other grave sections, including the rand union shoulders of uplift and erosion. The strike-slip regime is still active today. However, the size and orientation of stresses in the Earth has been slightly modified so that again sedimentation takes place in the entire grave area in the recent geological past.


The Upper Rhine Valley is an area of ​​high seismicity. The earthquakes are generally of low intensity and intensity ( according to the MSK scale ). It comes every few months on average, an earthquake of magnitude 3, which can be felt by people in the immediate vicinity of the epicenter. Approximately every ten years, more than regional perceptible seismic shocks with strengths greater than 5 and expect slight damage.

One exception is the region of Basel and the surrounding Swiss Jura dar. There were in the Middle Ages and modern times quake, which - such as the Basel earthquake of 1356 - caused considerable damage. It is believed that these earthquakes are related to the continuing thrust of the Swiss Jura on the southern Upper Rhine Graben in conjunction.

Earthquakes are triggered in large areas of the Upper Rhine Graben to depths of approximately 15 km down. In still greater depths, the rocks deform due to the high temperatures by room-filling creep. A displacement of rock layers along faults, which would be a prerequisite for the occurrence of earthquakes, no longer takes place in the Upper Rhine area grave.


In southwestern Germany with the Upper Rhine area grave are the remains of former volcanoes widespread (eg Kaiser chair, Hegau, Swabian Volcano, Steinberg, Katzenbuckel, Pechsteinkopf ). Most volcanic rocks are around 40 million years old, a second volcanic peak was above 18-14 million years ago. The magmas originate almost exclusively from one to 2% melted portion of the mantle ( asthenosphere ). It is located at West Germany at depths of over 70 km. The magmas rose from those depths almost unchanged up to the earth's surface and solidified primarily as nephelinites and Melilithite. Only locally developed during the ascent other Magmenzusammensetzungen (eg the emperor chair).

A grave formation may result due to the thinning of the crust to the formation of thermal anomalies in the mantle. The anomalies elicit the production of igneous melting and volcanism at the surface. In the Upper Rhine grave area but was not such a thermal anomaly, because the mantle cooled during his ascent due to the slow elongation occurred. It is rather suggested a correlation between the volcanism and the formation of the Alps, as significant geological events in the Alpine region coincided with the highlights of volcanic activity in southwest Germany.


Economic regions

The Upper Rhine Valley is part of the so-called " European Blue Banana", a European Economic and Development Zone, ranging from the Irish Sea to the Mediterranean. In the densely populated Rhine valley include the following major economic regions: the Tri-national metropolitan region of the Upper Rhine with the cities of Strasbourg, Mulhouse and Colmar ( F), Karlsruhe and Freiburg (Germany ) and Basel (CH), and in Germany the Rhine- Neckar Mannheim, Ludwigshafen and Heidelberg and the Rhine -Main area with Frankfurt, Offenbach, Darmstadt, Mainz and Wiesbaden.

Mineral resources


The Upper Rhine aquifer is with an estimated size of 45 billion m3 one of the largest aquifers in Central Europe. Its water level is usually already be found a few meters below the surface, in floodplains, lift springs and lakes aboveground. The so-called corridor distance is very different and greater in the south of the area.

Between Basel and Rastatt the local ground water covers three quarters of the drinking water needs of the population ( over three million people in Alsace and Baden- Württemberg), and more than half of the required water from the local industry.

In the Hessian Ried providing water association Ried Group East bears in cooperation with Hessenwasser significantly to the drinking water supply of the Rhine -Main area. At the same time the water board Hessian Ried takes in the waterworks of Biebesheim the Rhine for the purpose of groundwater recharge up to 5,400 m3 of water per hour. This corresponds to this current section one thousandth of the average discharge amount.


Mainly in deeper layers, but partly also to the surface, and found there is oil. The occurrence in Merkwiller -Pechelbronn (Alsace ) are occupied and are among the first who have been exploited since 1498. The name Pechelbronn means " bad luck fountain" and refers to the protruding from the earth oil. According to this source, the oldest petroleum deposits are referred to the Upper Rhine Graben as Pechelbronner layers. Between 1952 and 1994, was promoted in the Hessian Ried petroleum, natural gas until 1979. Today is promoted near Landau in the Palatinate in small amounts of oil, since 2008 also in Speyer.

In view of rising prices of raw materials and outgoing finished petroleum resources is also sought in the Rhine valley again for oil, so since 2011 the company Geopetrol and Millennium GeoVenture at Soufflenheim in Alsace. From December 2011 the Polish company Geofizyka Toruń " oil exploration in the northern Upper Rhine " operation on behalf of Rhein Petroleum from Heidelberg in the project three-dimensional seismic surveys to detect oil reserves.


More recently, the use of geothermal energy began: In the area of the Upper Rhine aquifer or were several pilot projects in Niederenthalpie deposits in the so -called hot dry rock (HDR) resources in the testing: Thus, for eg in Soultz -sous -Forêts in Alsace (France ) and in Kleinhueningen in Basel (Deep Heat Mining Basel). In Soultz -sous -Forêts geothermal power plant went on line in 2008; another is being built in Rittershoffen north of Strasbourg; also one in Landau ( Rhineland -Palatinate). The uplift cracks in Staufen revealed at the foothills of the Black Forest in Breisgau.

Gravel and clay

Was along the Rhine and is mined in large quantities of gravel and sand to be used for construction. From the Rhine gravels also some gold is recovered. Clay, formerly used for the manufacture of ceramic tableware is degraded in the meantime a very limited extent for the production of bricks.

Food and beverage production

The fertile soil have made agriculture possible since ancient times, the area is used for agriculture up to half of its area. The Upper Rhine Graben has also thanks to the temperate climate with high sunshine hours and more than sufficient water resources through the Upper Rhine Aquifer very good conditions for the production of food and beverages. There are many specialty crops, especially asparagus, plums, sweet and sour cherries, strawberries, vegetables, hops, tobacco and wine are grown. The favorable climatic conditions can be here in the wild not only vineyards but also almond trees, figs and chestnuts flourish and bear fruit. With Rheinhessen, the Pfalz and Baden the three in this order area, the largest German wine-growing areas are located almost entirely in the Upper Rhine Graben.