German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Protected Areas

Protected areas belong to the most important instruments of nature conservation and site protection contributes effectively to the conservation of species and habitats.

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. For example many nature conservation areas are simultaneously designated as Natura 2000 sites and large areas of the nature parks are designated as landscape protected areas. Therefore it is not allowed to add the Areas of the different protected area types for the Determination of the totel area of protected sites in Germany.

National parks, biosphere reserves and nature parks are also known collectively as large-scale conservation areas because of their size.

In 2009 National Nature Monuments were implemented in Germany's Federal Nature Conservation Act [BNatSchG; § 24 (4)]. 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).

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 Nationale Naturlanschaften e.V., Pfalzburger Str. 43/44 in 10717 Berlin, download see right column - new publication. 

In November 2005, EUROPARC Germany launched Nationale Naturlandschaften (‘National Natural Landscapes’), an umbrella brand for large-scale conservation areas (website: 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).

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
  • Developement of a national action plan for protected areas
  • Periodical evaluation of protected areas
  • Implementation of research and development projects and conferences on the protected area system and on individual (large-scale) protected area types, current issues concerning.
  • Improving protected area management and communication of best practice examples, strengthening the resilience of protected areas against negative influences
  • Strengthening research and monitoring, establishment of an integrative monitoring for national parks and biosphere reserves
  • Securing long-term funding
  • Cross-border cooperation
  • Enhancement of the portion of areas without management according to the so called 2%- and 5%-targets of the national biodiversity strategy
  • Realization of projects funded by the federal government in large scale conservation areas

Nature conservation areas (Naturschutzgebiete under Section 23 of Germany’s Federal Nature Conservation Act) are set up to preserve, develop or restore habitats and their wild flora and fauna. Any activity causing destruction, alteration or damage in a nature conservation area is prohibited. Any land use must be compatible with the protection purpose.

Nature conservation areas in Germany

National parks (Nationalparke under Section 24 of the Act) are large-scale landscapes of national importance that are in – or are capable of evolving or being brought into – a state such that they show little or no human impact over most of their area. Nature should be allowed to take its course in them free of human exploitation or intervention. National parks help protect nature and biodiversity and provide safe havens for wild plants and animals.

National parks in Germany

Since 1 March 2010, the amended Federal Nature Conservation Act applies. One of the changes relates to Section 24; in addition to the national parks, the protected area category "National Nature Monuments" was included.

National Nature Monuments in Germany

Biosphere reserves (Biosphärenreservate under Section 25 of the Act) are set up to protect large-scale natural and cultural landscapes. Their main aims are to preserve, develop or restore landscapes shaped by traditional diverse uses, along with their historically evolved diversity of species and habitats. They also serve as models for developing and testing sustainable operating methods in all sectors of the economy.

Biosphere reserves in Germany

Landscape protection areas (Landschaftsschutzgebiete under Section 26 of the Act) are created to maintain, develop or restore the functioning of the ecosystem and its services. They are generally large areas that are also important in human recreation.

Landscape protection areas in Germany

Nature parks (Naturparke under Section 27 of the Act) are large-scale cultural landscapes in which protecting and maintaining habitat and species diversity are closely tied to their recreational function. They support sustainable tourism and sustainable use of the land.

Nature parks in Germany

Section 30 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act provides protection for a range of habitat types to safeguard them from significant and lasting impacts. The separate designation as a protected area is not required.

Specially Protected Habitats under Section 30 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act in Germany

The Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention) was designated in 1971. Germany joined the convention in 1976.

By acceding to the Ramsar Convention, the member sates commit to designating at least one wetland within their territory as a "Wetland of International Importance", to take steps to maintain and develop this site and, if possible, furhter sites. 

Germany has reported 34 Ramsar sites with a total area of 668,228 hectares. These "Wetlands of International Importance" are so called predicate sites, which are not part of the federal law on nature conservation. 

Last Change: 19/05/2020