Severe disturbances of landscapes entail an ecosystem development with the formation of structures and functions which may reach either a new equilibrium state or a state similar to the original ecosystem. Natural disturbances can result from major events such as volcanoes, glaciers, or denudations from landslides. Major disturbance may also evolve from anthropogenic influences such as from mining operations. They all can be considered starting points for the development of ecosystems from 'point zero', which was one central research interest of Dieter Mueller-Dombois. In this paper results from research in the Lusatian post-mining landscapes (Eastern Germany) are presented. Different methodological approaches are discussed. The well-defined 'point zero' of the ecosystem development allows for research on chronosequence designs as well as real time series studies. Chronosequences have been investigated to gain insight into the medium to long-term direction of the development. Real time series are recorded to obtain a more detailed understanding. The paper is structured into three main parts: First, effects of ecosystem disturbances by mining in Lusatia and the initial conditions for restoration are presented. In the following part practical rehabilitation measures and land use options are discussed. Finally, the third part summarizes results of long-term monitoring in an artificial watershed. In conclusion, post-mining landscapes allow for relevant case studies of ecosystem development after severe disturbances. Particularly, the starting point of the initial phase is very well defined which distinguishes these anthropogenically disturbed landscapes from landscapes after natural disturbances.