Several types of protected areas are designated in Germany. The different types are defined in Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG). They can be classified by size, protection purpose and conservation objective, and by the resulting restrictions on land use. The main types are nature conservation areas, national parks, biosphere reserves, landscape protection areas, nature parks and Natura 2000 sites. Two or more protected areas of different types can overlap or even cover the same area of land.
National parks, biosphere reserves and nature parks are also known collectively as large-scale conservation areas because of their size.
Other designations include 'natural monuments' under Section 28 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act, and 'protected landscape features' under Section 29. These are isolated or very small areas protecting individual creations of nature or landscape features with special importance for the ecosystem or for giving the landscape variety and structure. There are no national lists covering all such designations. The German states (Länder) can also place specific habitats under statutory protection (Section 30). In 2009 National Nature Monuments were implemented in Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act [BNatSchG; § 24 (4)], but concrete conservation areas of this type are not yet established.
The 2002 Federal Nature Conservation Act created a new statutory requirement for the Länder to set up a network of interlinked biotopes covering at least 10 percent of their area (Section 21 of the Act). Aims of the network include making an effective contribution to protecting biodiversity and conserving Germany's natural heritage. Areas making up the network must be legally safeguarded by giving them protected area status, primarily as nature conservation areas, national parks, biosphere reserves or Natura 2000 sites.
The categories of protected areas set out in the Act also form the main basis for legally protecting areas making up the European Natura 2000 network (§§31-36 of the act) and the global network called for at the Fifth World Parks Congress in Durban (see COP 7 Decision VII/28).
For international comparability of the different types of protected areas across countries and regions, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) has published guidelines for protected area management categories in 1994, which shall be applied within reporting frameworks particularly to CBD (Convention on Biological Diversity). In 2008 a refined edition was published: Dudley, N. (Ed). 2008. "Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories", Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. x + 86pp. A German translation of this guidelines now has been published in 2010 by EUROPARC Germany, within a project funded by BfN (Federal Agency of Nature Conservation) and BMU (Ministry of the Environment and Nature Conservation). The brochure is available from EUROPARC Germany, Friedrichstrasse 60 in 10117 Berlin, download see right column - new publication.
A number of priorities have been identified for the future development of protected areas in Germany, and in particular for large-scale conservation areas:
- Improvement of quality criteria and standards for (large) protected areas
- Periodical evaluation of protected areas
- Securing long-term funding
- Improving protected area management and communication
- Strengthening research and monitoring
- Cross-border cooperation
- Realization of projects funded by the federal government in large scale conservation areas
In November 2005, EUROPARC Germany launched Nationale Naturlandschaften (‘National Natural Landscapes’), an umbrella brand for large-scale conservation areas (website: www.nationale-naturlandschaften.de) with the following aims:
- Provide a joint marketing and communication vehicle for all German large-scale conservation areas
- Establish a uniform corporate design for all large-scale conservation areas
- Boost awareness and the appreciation of national natural landscapes
- Enhance the national and international importance of large-scale conservation areas, for example in sustaining biodiversity in Germany
- Attract additional funding for large-scale conservation areas
Many large-scale conservation areas in Germany have now adopted the new corporate design. Development of the umbrella brand was supported with funding from the German Environment Ministry (BMU) and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN).