German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Conceptual Background

Potential alternatives - general aspects:

If we accept that the present cultural landscape, or any chosen historical situation, is only a snapshot in time and space of development processes driven by the specific economic framework conditions, then it is difficult to declare a concrete model situation of the landscape to be our conservation model.

This is underlined by the fact that the economic, social and natural framework conditions are subject to constant change. We need only note broad-scale eutrophication, climatic changes or the massive modifications of the water balance of the landscape. All of this calls for a high degree of creativity and flexibility when defining conservation goals, concepts and measures satisfying the general social objectives of nature conservation while at the same time remaining implementable. A strong functional focus is essential.

These deliberations lead to the conceptual approach for future development in nature conservation shown below.

structure diagram

While previous models sought more to re-establish by means of maintenance measures or restoration to a 'natural' state a historical situation defined in some way, it is essential that modern landscape development models do justice to the altered economic and ecological framework conditions (FINCK et al. 1997). The goals developed in this manner must seek to re-attain the original functions of natural and cultural landscapes. These approaches are forward looking and thus necessarily lead to both a 'new cultural landscape' and to a 'new wilderness'. Appropriate concepts need to be crafted to implement these approaches in practice. They also form an important element in implementing habitat networks.

Conservation requirements:

From the perspective of conservation practice, the following requirements are placed upon alternative conservation concepts for the development of open-habitat landscapes:

  1. They must be appropriate to attain the conservation goals.
    This is a matter not only of individual sectoral goals, but of implementing complex models. Such models need to be derived from general goals and responsibilities (Articles 1 and 2 of the German Federal Nature Conservation Act), from superordinate goals and tasks (as set in regional landscape programmes, landscape structure planning etc.) and the goals and tasks that follow from the concrete case (cf. on this e.g. FINCK et al. 1997). In the context under consideration here, goals include: · to conserve valuable ecosystems of open landscapes, · to conserve species and species communities dependent upon dynamic situations or pioneer sites, · to conserve species and species communities specialized on transitional areas between forests and open landscapes, · to conserve species and species communities which colonize old, sunlit woodland.
  2. They must be implementable under the given ecological framework conditions.
    This aspect gains particular importance within a more historicizing approach. Here it is essential to be aware that many of these framework conditions have undergone such sustained anthropogenic changes that some open landscape habitats are no longer or scarcely restorable. This applies, for instance, to the drainage of raised bogs, the regulation of large rivers or the eutrophication of landscapes.
  3. They must be cost-effective.
    In view of scarce financial resources, the efficiency of measures is crucial in conservation, too. The taxpayer's money needs to be deployed cost-effectively. This applies all the more in cases where agricultural and forestry measures or other management measures are needed to attain the set goals. Consideration needs to be given in such cases to both the general economic conditions and the prevailing practices of public-sector assistance. On the other hand, of course, there is an urgent need to modify e.g. public-sector assistance practices themselves in pursuit of the alternatives under debate. However, as such a modification can scarcely be achieved within the scope of concrete projects, this is not discussed any further here.
  4. They must be acceptable to conservation actors, political decision-makers, affected users and the public at large.
    This is not a matter of acceptance at any price: Satisfaction of points 1-3 is always the basic condition.

Alternative concepts:

The following alternatives to traditional conservation approaches are suited to implement in practice the models set out above:

Semi-open pasture landscapes

Management by severe disturbance

Wilderness areas (only in German)


Future importance of alternative concepts:

In order that there be no misunderstanding: 'alternative' is not to mean 'substitute' but 'supplement'. This means in concrete terms that conservation bodies need to develop decision-making concepts which permit an optimum choice of measures, giving regard to the existing models and the options available in the specific case.

Last Change: 02/01/2006