German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


National Nature Monuments

General remarks

In March 2010 the protected area category “National Nature Monuments” was added to the Federal Nature Conservation Act.

In Article 24 (4) the category is defined as follows:

“National nature monuments are areas that have been designated in a legally binding manner and that

  1. for reasons of science, natural history, cultural history or national heritage, and
  2. because of their rarity, special characteristics or beauty

are of outstanding importance. National nature monuments have to be protected in the same manner as nature conservation areas.”

Article 22 (5) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act sets out the requirements for consultation with federal government ministries regarding their designation:

“Declaration of areas as national parks or national nature monuments, including changes to such declarations, shall be issued in consultation with the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety and the Federal Ministry of Transport and digital infrastructure.”

The new type of protected area borrows from category III of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Thus, national nature monuments can be natural features of national importance, particularly prominent geological/geomorphological features or features that combine great natural and cultural value.

Compared to national parks, national nature monuments might be considerably smaller. However, both protected area categories have national importance as a prerequisite for designation in common. Contrary to nature conservation areas, cultural value is as important as natural value for the declaration of areas as national nature monuments. In addition, national nature monuments have to fulfil the requirements concerning rarity and special characteristics. Natural monuments are distinguished from national nature monuments by their local or regional importance and the fact that they preserve objects, not areas.

As national nature monuments are unlikely consisting of completely natural and untouched areas, but mostly rather consist of areas influenced by human activity, management requirements for the protection and conservation of this protected area category have to be assessed and defined. Given the attractiveness of national nature monuments, a high number of visitors and consequently heavy pressure on designated areas can be expected. To assess the necessity of mandatory management plans and administrative, informative and educational facilities on site, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation conducted a research and development project with the topic ‘National Nature Monuments’ from 2010 to 2013. The final Report also contains management guidelines for this protected area category.

The research and development project states that single objects cannot be designated as national nature monuments. Nevertheless, important archaeological sites and cultural monuments can also be part of a national nature monument - if they have natural value. While designating national nature monuments, this can lead to an overlap of nature conservation and monumental protection.

There is no legally required minimum or maximum size for national nature monuments. The size of the protected area is guided by the dimensions of those parts of a landscape that will be put under protection. To be considered worthy of declaration as national nature monument an area has to fulfil at least one of each of the criteria named in article 24 (4) Nr.1 and 2 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Additionally, each of these fulfilled criteria have to be of outstanding importance.

The management guidelines for national nature monuments developed in the above mentioned research and development project state that one of the management principles should be to permanently safeguard and conserve the area and, where applicable, improve the characteristics of the national nature monument giving it its particular value. The preparation of a management plan with provisions regarding use and, if needed, management and development measures as well as regulations for a socially and ecologically sound visitor management is recommended. In this context, a system of zones with different goals, measures and priorities regarding nature conservation and monumental protection can be developed. In order to examine implementation and success of the management plan, a monitoring scheme should be established.

Due to their outstanding importance and their considerable public image, larger national nature monuments should have their own administration. However, it could also be integrated in an already existing administrative structure. Public relations activities of national nature monuments should, on the one hand, comprise of image cultivation in the media and, on the other hand, of visitor guidance and information, e.g. in the form of flyers and information boards. In doing so, one should pay attention that facilities for visitor management should not affect the national nature monument.

Designated national nature monuments

Oaks of Ivenacker

The first German national nature monument, “Ivenacker Eichen“, was established in 2016 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. It is situated close to the city of Stavenhagen in a so-called ‘zoological garden’ with fallow deer and composed of an approximately 75 ha large pastoral forest, including five up to 1000 years old oaks. “Ivenacker Eichen” is part of the 278 ha large Natura 2000-site “Ivenacker Tiergarten, Stavenhagener Stadtholz und Umgebung”, which has a management plan since 2017.  Moreover, this national nature monument is part of the 302 ha large landscape protection area “Ivenacker Tiergarten”.

Among other things, there is an area-wide occurrence of the hermit beetle in the area of the ‘zoological garden’. The tallest of the oaks at this site is an approximately 1000 year old common oak with a trunk circumference of eleven meter and a height of 35.5 meter and represents thus one of the biggest living oaks in Europe. Since its establishment in August 2017, the canopy walkway “Ivenacker Eichen” has become one of the main attractions in the “Ivenacker Tiergarten”, not only educating visitors in forest-related issues, but also drawing their attention to the national nature monument. The national nature monument “Ivenacker Eichen” and the landscape protection area “Ivenacker Tiergarten” are managed by the state forest administration of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

Stones of Bruchhausen

In 2017, an area of 24 ha called “Bruchhauser Steine“ in Sauerland in North Rhine-Westphalia, comprising of four volcanic quartz porphyry rocks named ‘Bornstein’, ‘Goldstein’, ‘Ravenstein’ and ‘Feldstein’ was declared as a second national nature monument. These rocks are not only a breeding site for peregrine falcons, but are also habitat of arctic-alpine flora and ice age relicts such as the white flowering alpine rock-cress. The nature conservation area ‘Bruchhauser Steine’, which was established in the 1950s, encompasses the national nature monument and has a size of 84 ha. The national nature monument “Bruchhauser Steine”, which is also designated as a soil and cultural monument and archaeological reserve, is managed by the foundation “Stiftung Bruchhauser Steine des Freiherrn von Fürstenberg-Gaugreben und des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen” based in Olsberg-Bruchhausen and founded in 1992. This foundation carries out measures for the preservation of the different protected areas, fostering old traditions and managing visitor guidance.

Green Belt Thuringia

The "Green Belt Thuringia" was designated as the third national nature monument in 2018. As a result. For the first time a coherent part of the Green Belt in Germany of 763 km and 6,500 ha is uniformly put under protection. Through the category “National Nature Monument” the national importance of this unique national habitat network as well as the symbolism of the former divide into two geostrategic power blocs (keyword: Iron Curtain) are emphasised. Furthermore, the designation is an important instrument to permanently safeguard national natural heritage areas which the federal government of Germany transfered to the federal state of Thuringia. This new, nationally important protected area creates possibilities for an increasing regional added value through revenues from sustainable, nature-oriented tourism.

Klutert Cave System

The youngest national nature monument is the "Kluterthöhlensystem" in North Rhine-Westphalia under the town of Ennepetal. These are eight separate caves of about 30 ha, that are hydrologically connected to each other. The known tunnels have a length of over 7,000 metres. The karstified reef body of the cave system is more than 385 million years old and consists mainly of corals, stromatopores and nautilids. Fossil organisms can be viewed intact and partly in "living position". The three-dimensional decomposition of the reef body is unique in Germany. Due to the climatic conditions a constant, very sensitive ecosystem with different protected and rare animal species developed, for example the cave nemertine worm (Prostoma putealis), which only occurs here, and various niphargus species. In addition, various species of bats use the cave as winter quarters.

A small part of the cave is used for show purposes (guided tour only) and because of the special cave climate for the treatment of respiratory diseases. 

Green Belt Saxony-Anhalt - From death strip to life line

In 2019, the Green Belt Saxony-Anhalt - From Death Strip to Lifeline (4,754 ha) was designated as the fifth National Nature Monument (NNM) in Germany. This means that the continuous section of the Green Belt in Saxony-Anhalt will be consistently protected over a length of 343 km. The category NNM emphasises the national importance of this unique national habitat network and the symbolism of the former dividing line between two geostrategic power blocks (keyword: Iron Curtain).  The NNM "Green Belt Saxony-Anhalt - From Death Strip to Lifeline" also represents a living memorial to the former division of Germany and its peaceful overcoming. Together with the NNM Green Belt Thuringia, more than 1100 km of the Green Belt in Germany are now legally protected as NNM.

Weltenburg Narrows (Bavaria)
The Weltenburg Narrows were the sixth area and the first one in Bavaria to be declared as national nature monument in 2020. With a size of 197 ha, the area in the breakthrough valley of the Danube contains impressive and geologically valuable limestone rock walls with a high fossil wealth, as well as karst caves. In addition, their deciduous forests include relicts of the steppe heathland oak forest and stocks of old yew trees. The interaction of the free-flowing Danube including its natural gravel islands and banks with high rock formations and old forests provides habitat for a unique fauna and flora. Besides the natural attractions, it is also considered historically and culturally valuable due to cultural and historical relicts, as well as Stone Age and Celtic remains found in this area. The Weltenburg Narrows are located in a nature reserve of 560 ha, which belongs to the FFH area "'Weltenburger Enge' and 'Hirschberg und Altmühlleiten'" (934 ha). It was also awarded with the European Diploma and designated as a "National Geotope". Due to the high touristic importance the area management will also include a visitor guidance system.


National Nature Monuments in Germany
National Nature Monument (Federal State)Area (ha)Legal FoundationYear of Designation
Ivenacker Eichen
(Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania)
Bruchhauser Steine
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Grünes Band Thüringen
(North Rhine-Westphalia)
Grünes Band Sachsen-Anhalt
Weltenburg Narrows (Bavaria)197Decree2020

Last Change: 21/02/2020