Biosphere reserves (Biosphärenreservate) are defined in art. 25 para. 1 of Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) as "areas that are to be protected and developed in a consistent way and that
- are large and are typical representatives of certain landscape types,
- fulfil the requirements for nature conservation areas in essential parts of their territory, and the requirements for landscape protection areas throughout the greater part of the rest of their territory,
- serve the primary purpose of conserving, developing or restoring landscapes shaped by traditional, diverse forms of use, along with their species and biotope diversity as evolved over time, including wild forms and formerly cultivated forms of commercially used or usable animal and plant species, and
- illustrate ways of developing and testing forms of economic activity that are especially conserving of natural resources."
Many of the Länder had already incorporated biosphere reserves into their nature conservation legislation even before this federal framework was put in place (MAYERL 2004). Biosphere reserves have been recognised by UNESCO since 1976 under the Man and the Biosphere ( MAB) programme. Designation is awarded under the Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves (UNESCO 1995, 1996). Biosphere reserves are established "to promote and demonstrate a balanced relationship between humans and the biosphere" (DEUTSCHES MAB-NATIONALKOMITEE 2004). The UNESCO World Network of Biosphere Reserves is made up of 621 areas in 117 countries (as of May 2013).
Under the UNESCO Statutory Framework biosphere reserves fulfil the following functions (UNESCO 1996):
- Conservation - contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation;
- Development - foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable;
- Logistic support - support for demonstration projects, environmental education and training, research and monitoring related to local, regional, national and global issues of conservation and sustainable development.
At the 3rd World Congress of Biosphere Reserves which was held in Madrid in February 2008 the Madrid Action Plan was agreed. This plan especially deals with the increasing challenges and problems of the 21th century and identifies necessary adaptation strategies.
UNESCO has recognised 15 biosphere reserves so far designated in Germany. In February 2009 the biosphere reserve Karstlandschaft Südharz was designated by the state of Saxony-Anhalt. This also will apply for recognition as UNESCO biosphere reserve.
Total area of biosphere reserves in Germany
The total area of all 16 biosphere reserves in Germany is 1.846.904 ha. Excluding North Sea and Baltic marine and mudflat areas (534.646 ha), this represents 3.7 percent of German territory.
| Südost- Rügen
(South-eastern Rügen island)
|Extensively managed, richly structured and diverse cultural landscape of the island of Rügen, including large-scale extensively managed sheep pastures on moraine cores, Bodden landscape, old deciduous woodlands (Vilm, Granitz); home to species including white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), osprey (Pandion haliaetus), Caspian tern (Sterna caspia) and natterjack toad (Bufo calamita).|
| Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer und Halligen
(Hamburg Wadden Sea)
(Lower Saxony Wadden Sea)
|Apart from the high mountain regions this is the last large-scale natural landscape in Central Europe. Characteristic landscape elements are mud- and sandflats, salt meadow, dunes and the sea. Important resting area for waders (up to 1.3 million birds of over 30 species), e.g. dunlin (Calidris alpina), pied avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), common shelduck (Tadorna tadorna); more than 2,000 species of fauna including numerous endemic species; home to grey seal (Halichoerus grypus), common seal (Phoca vitulina) and harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena).|
|Schaalsee||Glacially formed cultural landscape; deep calcareous lakes and calcareous swamps, alluvial woodlands including alder-ash woodlands, carr woodlands, peatlands, dry grasslands, agricultural grasslands; home to white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), European fire-bellied toad (Bombina bombina) and common whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus).|
|Schorfheide-Chorin||Glacially formed landscape (ground moirains, terminal moraines and sandurs) with beech and pine forests (some of which are old wood-pastures), peatlands, oligotrophic lakes; home to species including lesser spotted eagle (Aquila pomarina), common crane (Grus grus) and European pond turtle (Emys orbicularis)|
| Flusslandschaft Elbe
(Elbe river landscape)
|Last near-natural river in Germany; complexes of near-natural hardwood riparian woodlands and lower (softwood) riparian alluvial woodlands, carr woodlands and riparian woodlands along the tributaries; sandy riverbanks, inland sand dunes with sandy dry grasslands and rich river morphology including ox-bows and return seepage zones; habitat of the Elbe beaver (Castor fiber albicus); high density of white stork (Ciconia ciconia), important migration corridor for Nordic passage migrants.|
|Large lowland area with near-natural alder carr complexes, extensively managed marshes and a widely branched network of watercourses; home to species including black stork (Ciconia nigra), otter (Lutra lutra) and numerous types of dragonfly|
| Karstlandschaft Südharz
(Southern Harz Gypsum Karst Region)
Wide range of characteristic karst features including sinkholes (dolines), rockfalls, karst springs and caves; extensive near-natural beech and mixed deciduous forest, and significant remnants of small-farm agricultural countryside with large areas of dry grassland and sparse orchards. Habitat of nationally important species including fastigiate gypsophila (Gypsophila fastigiata), toothed orchid (Orchis tridentata), stag beetle (Lucanus cervus) and swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon).
| Oberlausitzer Heide- und Teichlandschaft
(Oberlausitz heathland and pond landscapes)
|Part of the most extensive German pond landscape; embedded in a heath landscape characterized by pine forests, peatlands, and inland sand dunes; centre of reproduction for the otter (Lutra lutra) in Germany, home to nightjar (Caprimulgus europaeus).|
| Vessertal- Thüringer Wald
|Extensive forest areas, remnants of near-natural mixed montane forests with silver fir (Abies alba) at the northern edge of its range; montane meadows, siliceous scree, rocky habitats, raised bogs, dense network of near-natural watercourses; home to species including black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), Barbastelle bat (Barbastella barbastellus) and the northern white-faced darter dragonfly (Leucorrhinia rubicunda).|
|Rhön||Extensive near-natural deciduous woodlands on limestone and basalt; ravine forests and woodlands on coarse scree; open basalt scree, peatlands, extensive areas of montane hay meadows (yellow oat-grass mea-dows and mat-grass swards); extensive areas of grazed semi-dry grasslands, near-natural low montane streams with their alluvial vegetation; non-alpine sites for black grouse (Tetrao tetrix), home to woodchat shrike (Lanius senator) and hermit butterfly (Chazara briseis).|
|Bliesgau||Characteristic dry grassland landscapes with their submediterranean flora and fauna, valuable fruit-tree meadows, species-rich meadow habitats, extensive beech forest and the floodplane landscape traversed by the Blies river. Numerous orchid species, large populations of marsh fritillary butterfly and little owl.|
(Palatinate Forest - North Vosges)
|Deciduous woodland region with numerous meadow valleys, carr woodlands, wet meadows and marshes, fens and transitional mires, springs and flushes; home to peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), wildcat (Felis sylvestris) and lynx (Lynx lynx).|
|Schwäbische Alb||Steep escarpment with forested slopes and ravines, valleys with near-natural watercourses, traditional upland cultural landscape with juniper heath, nutrient-poor grasslands, meadows, pastures, arable land and forest, and fruit-tree meadows in the foothills. Key species include red kite, wheatear, wood lark and numerous orchids and gentians.|
| Berchtesgadener Land
|Characteristic landscape of the northern calcareous Alps with mixed montane forests and montane spruce forest complexes, watercour-ses, sward communities, swards on loose rock; home to golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), ptarmigan (Lagopus mutus) and marmot (Marmota marmota).|
To serve their various objectives and functions, biosphere reserves are divided into three zones. These zones may each consist of two or more separate areas, all of which must function ecologically in their own right.
Under the UNESCO Statutory Framework, the status of each biosphere reserve is reviewed every ten years by the competent authority (in Germany, the MAB National Committee) (UNESCO 1996).
The Mittlere Elbe, Bayerische Wald and Vessertal-Thüringer Wald biosphere reserves were reviewed in 2001, Schorfheide-Chorin, Berchtesgaden and Spreewald in 2002, Südost-Rügen, Pfälzerwald and Rhön in 2003, the three Wattenmeer reserves in 2004/2005, Oberlausitzer Heide- und Teichlandschaft in 2006 and Flusslandschaft Elbe extending over several Länder in 2007. In 2008 - 2010, the Franco-German Pfälzerwald/Vosges du Nord biosphere reserve is the subject of the world’s first periodic review of a transboundary biosphere reserve in accordance with internationally applicable criteria. In 2010 the biosphere reserve "Schaalsee" will also be reviewed.
From the present experience and findings inter alia the following requirements for improvement are identified:
- Step up communication of the biosphere reserve idea; encourage the local population to identify with 'their' biosphere reserve.
- Increase promotion of sustainable regional development and promote and integrate research in biosphere reserves.
Research and monitoring
As world-ranking model regions, biosphere reserves are ideal subjects for cross-border interdisciplinary research into the complex relationships between man and the environment. The attractions and potential of biosphere reserves as protected areas and as study areas for a wide range of current research questions are presented in a German-language brochure (Download on the right column). The publication aims to encourage research institutes and providers of research funding to select biosphere reserves as research areas and to channel research funding their way.
The Chair of Sustainability Science and Applied Geography at the Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald, headed by Prof. Dr. Susanne Stoll-Kleemann, researched the assessment of management and governance of biosphere reserves across the globe, Governance of Biodiversity (GoBi) - project (2004-2010), promoted by the Robert Bosch foundation. From 2009 to 2012 the project "Social processes in German biosphere reserves" was promoted by DBU (German Federal Environment foundation). Within this project developed instruments for socio-economic monitoring and their testing in 4 German biosphere reserves, were published in BfN-Skripten series Nr. 329.
The German Science Foundation funded the research project “Biodiversity Exploratories” in 2006. Three long-term platforms for research serve for all biodiversity and ecosystem research groups of Germany. Two of the platforms are situated in German biosphere reserves (Schorfheide-Chorin and Schwäbische Alb). Study Objectives are:
- the understanding of the relationship between biodiversity of different taxa and levels,
- the role of land use and management for biodiversity
- and the role of biodiversity for ecosystem processes.
Sustainable land use
Biosphere reserves are particularly well suited for establishing sustainable land use approaches and regional marketing structures for sustainably farmed products. In the Rhön biosphere reserve, for example, marketing of regional products such as Rhön lamb and mutton, traditional apple varieties and meat from cattle raised in the reserve helps sustain a species-rich cultural landscape. 25 percent of farming in the Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve is organic. Some 10.6 of agricultural land in the Rhön biosphere reserve is farmed organically. The figure for Germany as a whole in 2007 is 5,11 percent.
- Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Umwelt, Gesundheit und Verbraucherschutz (BayStMUGV), Hessisches Ministerium für Umwelt, ländlichen Raum und Verbraucherschutz (HMULV), Thüringer Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Naturschutz und Umwelt (TMLNU) (Hrsg.) (2008): Erster integrierter Umweltbericht für das länderübergreifende UNESCO-Biosphärenreservat Rhön
- Bundesamt für Naturschutz (Hrsg.) (2008): Forschung und Monitoring in den deutschen Biosphärenreservaten. - Bonn, Broschüre, 31 S.
- Deutsches Nationalkomitee für das UNESCO Programm "Der Mensch und die Biosphäre" (MAB) (Hrsg.) (2007): Kriterien für die Anerkennung und Überprüfung von Biosphärenreservaten der UNESCO in Deutschland. - Bonn (Deutsches Nationalkomitee für das UNESCO-Programm MAB), 66 S.
- Deutsches MAB-Nationalkomitee (Hrsg.) (2004): Voller Leben. - Bonn (Springer Verlag), 314 S.
- EUROPARC Deutschland (Hrsg.) (2005): Natürlich nah! - Biosphärenreservate in Deutschland. - Berlin, Broschüre, 36 S.
- Gehrlein, U., Grunzke, B., Steimel, K., Klinkhart, H. (2007): Strategien zur Förderung des nachhaltigen Wirtschaftens in Biosphärenreservaten. - Bonn, Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN-Skripten 202, 109 S.
- Kullmann, A. (2007): Regionalvermarktung in den deutschen Biosphärenreservaten. - Bonn, Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN-Skripten 175, 182 S.
- Mayerl, D. (2004): Das Netzwerk der Biosphärenreservate in Deutschland. In: Deutsches MAB-Nationalkomitee (Hrsg.). Voller Leben. Bonn (Springer-Verlag), 314 S.
- UNESCO (HRSG.) (1995): Statutory Framework of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. - UNESCO, Paris.
- UNESCO (Hrsg.) (1996): Biosphärenreservate. Die Sevilla-Strategie und die Internationalen Leitlinien für das Weltnetz. - Bonn (Bundesamt für Naturschutz), 24 S.
- UNESCO (Hrsg.) (2008): Madrider Aktionsplan (Madrid Action Plan), UNESCO, Paris.
1) The Mittlere Elbe biosphere reserve, created in 1979, is now part of the Flusslandschaft Elbe reserve extending over several Länder.