German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Project Profile: UNESCO World Heritage in Germany

Implementation of the World Heritage Convention in Germany
Natural heritage activities


As a party to the UNESCO World Heritage Convention, Germany is committed to protecting natural and cultural heritage of ‘outstanding universal value’. Article 3 of the Convention requires state parties to identify potential World Heritage sites on their territory. Periodic progress reporting on the Convention’s implementation in Germany (under Article 29) has revealed deficits regarding natural heritage sites. This is reflected in the imbalance between cultural and natural heritage properties in the current World Heritage List for Germany: only three natural heritage sites are represented in a total of 39 World Heritage sites.

The project:

The German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) advises the Federal Environment Ministry (BMU) on implementing the World Heritage Convention with regard to natural heritage sites. It also helps the sixteen German states prepare site nominations for the UNESCO World Heritage List. Various R&D projects have been or are being carried out for this purpose.

Identifying potential German World Heritage nominations:

Archaeopteryx, a prehistoric bird, at the Solnhofer Plattenkalke potential World Natural Heritage site (photo: Altmühltal nature park)
Archaeopteryx, a prehistoric bird, at the Solnhofer Plattenkalke potential World Natural Heritage site (photo: Altmühltal nature park)

The aim of the first research and development project in 2004 was to identify natural sites and organically evolved cultural landscapes in Germany that are potentially suited for nomination as UNESCO World Heritage sites. In this way, Germany met its obligation to identify natural properties that may be suitable for nomination as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Serial nominations (clusters) and cross-border nominations were included as much of Europe’s natural heritage can only be properly appreciated in an international context. The proposals were compared regarding their chances of success. The German Wadden Sea was left out as it was already included in the German nomination list at the time of the study. Among other things, the study revealed potential for nominating German beech forests as world natural heritage. This proposal was taken up and subjected to a feasibility study in a further R&D project.

Feasibility Study on a Green Belt World Heritage site:

(Photo: K. Leidorf)

From 2012 to 2014, a new research and development project examines if the German/European Green Belt has potential to be nominated as UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Green Belt is an organically evolved landscape along the former border between East and West in Europe, the so called Iron Curtain. The Lack of use and isolation in this border area facilitated a continuous green ribbon of valuable habitats. Numerous endangered species and biotopes are flourishing in this area. In addition, military monuments and remains of border fortifications exhibit socio-historic important relicts of the Cold War.

The Institute for Landscape Management of the University of Freiburg and Agrathaer, an enterprise specialized on strategic land use, will identify and evaluate the outstanding natural and cultural values of the corridors of the Green Belt in Germany as well as in Europe. Based on the Operational Guidelines of the World Heritage Convention, the feasibility study will consider and outline the key aspects of nominating a World Heritage site, such as comparing the site on a regional and global level, proposing potential criteria for nomination, drafting a statement of integrity and authenticity or demonstrating sufficient site protection and management mechanisms.

The project results show that a nomination of the Green Belt from a nature conservation perspective can only be useful when taking into account natural criteria (Scenario A, mixed site nomination). A nomination exclusively under cultural criteria (Scenario) would lead to a superposition of nature conservation objectives by aims of cultural preservation. A nomination under scenario A would need a complex multinational nomination process and close cooperation with cultural stakeholders.

Complete study

See for further information: The European Green Belt

Nomination of German beech forests as natural heritage:

Beech forests in Jasmund National Park, Island of Rügen (photo: B. Engels)
Beech forests in Jasmund National Park, Island of Rügen (photo: B. Engels)

With the assistance of the German Environment Ministry (BMU), the German states of Brandenburg, Hesse, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Thuringia prepared the nomination of a German beech forest cluster as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site. The cluster consists of selected parts of the Kellerwald-Edersee National Park in Hesse, the Hainich National Park in Thuringia, the Jasmund and the Müritz National Parks in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, and the Grumsin total reserve in the Schorfheide-Chorin biosphere reserve in Brandenburg. The findings of the feasibility study mentioned above led to the nomination process. The study recommended to  combine the areas concerned in a transnational nomination together with the ancient beech forests in Slovakia and the Ukraine. These two states had already jointly nominated a region of ancient beech forests in the Carpathians for consideration as a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site in 2007, and the World Heritage Committee decided to inscribe the region to the World Heritage List in July 2007.  on 25th of June 2011 the Committee accepted the extension of the Slovak-Ukrainian beech forest World Natural Heritage (Primeval Beech forests of the Carpathians"  with the "Ancient Beech forests of Germany". In this context, several trilateral meetings with the Slovak and Ukrainian environment ministries, representatives of the German states and experts have been held. These meetings resulted in the agreement of closer trilateral cooperation in matters relating to UNESCO World Natural Heritage sites, with activities focusing on the  trinational beech forest World Heritage site.

Nomination of the Wadden Sea:

A joint German-Dutch nomination of the Wadden Sea as a UNESCO World Heritage site was decided upon at the 10th Trilateral Government Conference on the Protection of the Wadden Sea (Schiemonnikoog, Netherlands, November 2005). The resolution was preceded by regional consultations. A bilateral project group prepared the nomination dossier for submission to the World Heritage Centre in Paris on 1 February 2008. The work is supported by the Trilateral Wadden Sea Secretariat. In June 2009, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee has inscribed the German-Dutch Waddensea on the World Heritage list.

In June 2011, the World Heritage Committee agreed to the change of the site's boundary. The World Heritage site is now expanded by the National Park Hamburg Waddensea.

In nominating the Wadden Sea as a World Natural Heritage site, the Netherlands and Germany aim to meet their obligations under the World Heritage Convention protecting the Wadden Sea as a key ecosystem and world natural heritage for present and future generations.

Activities under the Alpine Convention:

After the World Heritage Committee had turned down several nominations from the Alpine region in recent years and repeatedly called for greater cooperation between Alpine states in preparing nominations, the Alpine states established a working group under the framework of the Alpine Convention at the start of 2007. The main purpose of the working group is enhanced coordination and cooperation in nominating World Heritage sites in the Alpine region. This is to help identify potential World Heritage sites in the Alps and to ensure that the Alps are suitably represented in the World Heritage List through high-quality nominations. The area of the Berchtesgaden National Park may form the German part of a serial nomination. The working group has submitted a report to the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention at the Tenth Alpine Conference. The mandate for the working group has been extended.


Plachter, H., Kruse, A. and Kruckenberg, H. (2006): Screening potenzieller deutscher Naturwerte für das UNESCO-Welterbeübereinkommen.
BfN-Skripten 177 (PDF file, 2.9 MB)

Project information:

Duration: Started 2003

Programme: Research and development projects

Project partners: Prof. Harald Plachter (University of Marburg), Dr. Alexandra Kruse and Dr. Helmut Kruckenberg (Büro für Landschaft & Service), and Buchenwaldinstitut e.V.

Project management at BfN:

Section I 2.3, International Nature Conservation
Contact: Barbara Engels (

Last Change: 03/04/2018