German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


The German Green Belt

In the shadow of the former border between East and West Germany, nature was more or less left to its own devices. Shortly after the fall of the Iron Curtain, BUND (Friends of the Earth Germany) organised a first meeting of eastern and western German nature conservationists at which they signed a declaration on conservation of this strip of land. 

That marked the birth of the ‘Green Belt’, which has since grown to become a major conservation project involving a wide range of nature conservation agencies and organisations that are working successfully together for 25 years now.

Germany's Green Belt

logo German Green Belt

Nature was able to grow undisturbed for decades along the former German-German border, not just in the officially designated no-man’s land but also – thanks to the isolated location – in large areas to either side. A map of the Green Belt resembles a string of beads, with large areas of high conservation value between areas of cleared, intensively farmed countryside. It is thus an important axis in the German national ecological network. It links a range of mostly extensively grazed open-countryside habitats in alternation with rivers, lakes, and pioneer, mixed and coniferous woodland.

The Green Belt at the 'Große Bruch' area, Saxony-Anhalt; photo: K. Leidorf
Photo of the Green Belt at the 'Große Bruch' area, Saxony-Anhalt; photo: K. Leidorf

Habitat Green Belt

In 2012, 63.3 percent of the Green Belt area and no less than 76.4 percent of the open countryside in the Green Belt was accounted for by endangered habitat types (categories 1-3 of the 2006 Red List of Habitat Types in Germany). The Green Belt is also home to over 1,200 threatened animal and plant species.

Adjoining orderly, intensively farmed countryside, it often serves an important purpose as the sole remaining refuge for a large number of threatened animal and plant species that are sensitive to disturbance.

Usage conflicts

On the other hand, some 13 percent of the Green Belt area has been impaired or destroyed by intensive grazing, arable farming, built development, afforestation, quarrying or tipping.

Although the Green Belt has long been a target of nature conservation work, only 68 percent of its area was protected in 2012 in the form of nature conservation areas, national parks, biosphere reserves or Natura 2000 sites. The remaining area is inadequately protected if at all. This is important in that much of the Green Belt is privately owned land where land use interests often take priority over conservation.

Last Change: 24/02/2021