Nature Conservation Areas
Nature conservation areas (Naturschutzgebiete) are defined in art. 23 para. 1 of Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG) as "areas that have been designated in a legally binding manner and in which the special protection of nature and landscape as a whole, or of individual parts thereof, is required for the following reasons:
- in order to conserve, develop or restore living sites, biotopes or communities of certain species of wild fauna and flora,
- for reasons of science, natural history or national heritage, or
- because of their rarity, special characteristics or outstanding beauty."
Most nature conservation areas are designated by authorities in charge of nature conservation at regional government level, although some are created by state (Länder) or local government-level authorities. Their charter takes the form of an order (Erlass or Verordnung) issued under delegated legislative powers. Within such areas, regional planning is required to give priority to nature conservation. Along with national parks, they make up a considerable share of the land area dedicated to maintaining biodiversity in Germany.
Nature conservation areas have been established first by a prussian law for field- and forestpolice, the "Preußisches Feld- und Forstpolizeigesetz (PrFFGG)", in 1920. The "Neandertal" can be recognised as the first German nature conservation area (established on 9 August 1921), followed by the Lüneburg Heath (established on 29 December 1921) and "Siebengebirge" (established on 7 June 1922). In 1923 already 12 sites were protected as nature conservation areas. The implementation of the category nature conservation area by law thoughout Germany, occured by the German Nature Conservation Act the "Reichsnaturschutzgesetz", in 1935. In 1936 already 98 sites were established as nature conservation areas.
Nevertheless various activities in nature conservation before 1920 resulted in protected areas. The first sites, which were protected similar to nature conservation areas, are:
- "Drachenfels", located in the "Siebengebirge" (1836)
- "Hochstein/Totenstein", located in the "Oberlausitz" (1844)
- "Neuenburger Urwald", located in "Ostfriesland" (1850)
- "Teufelsmauer", located at the foot of the "Harz" mountains (1852)
- "Hasbruch", located near Oldenburg (1889)
- "Plagefenn", located in the "Schorfheide" (1907)
- "Sababurg", located in the "Reinhardswald" (1907)
- "Arterner Solgraben", located in the "Kyffhäuserkreis" (1908)
- The island "Trischen" and "Hallig Norderoog" in the Wadden Sea of Schleswig-Holstein (1909)
- The island "Langenwerder" in the bay of Wismar (1910)
- Special region for conservation of plant species in the Berchtesgaden Alps (1910)
Land designated as conservation areas in Germany
With data as of 12/2009 Germany has 8,481 nature conservation areas. A total of 1,301,420 ha is given over to nature conservation areas in Germany. This represents 3.6 percent of the country's land surface. An above-average share of the total is accounted for by the city states of Hamburg (8.1 percent) and Bremen (4.9 percent) and by the states of Brandenburg (7.5 percent) and North Rhine-Westphalia (7.5 percent). The states of Hesse, Rheinland-Palatinate, Bavaria, Berlin, Baden-Württemberg have a below-average share of land assigned to nature conservation areas. The percentage of land earmarked varies considerably from state to state.
Average size of nature conservation areas
The average size of a nature conservation area is 154 ha (excluding North Sea and Baltic marine and mudflat areas). Some 60 percent of conservation areas are smaller than 50 ha, which means they are not large enough to be safe from negative outside factors such as water loss and eutrophication. Only 13 percent have an area of 200 ha or larger. The states of Brandenburg, Bavaria, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Saxony-Anhalt are notable for their large nature conservation areas. In contrast, conservation areas in the states of Saarland, Rhineland-Palatinate, North Rhine-Westphalia, Hesse, Berlin and Baden-Württemberg tend to be markedly smaller than the national average. A total of 208 areas cover 1,000 ha or more.
Many nature conservation areas continue to be affected by land use. Uses include forms of recreation, forestry and farming, use of water resources, and transport. The conservation objectives set out in the official order creating a nature conservation area can therefore restrict or ban certain forms of land use or lay down other requirements.
The following references contain mostly current lists and descriptions of nature conservation areas in large regions of Germany:
How well a nature conservation area can fulfil its protection purpose largely depends on its size. Being insular and having a large perimeter-to-area ratio, small conservation areas are more open to outside influence than large ones and are often less well preserved as a result. Designation of nature conservation areas in hill and mountain country takes place on a more small-scale, selective basis than in the north German lowlands, where nature conservation areas tend to be larger.
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