German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Communication and Public Awareness

Awareness of nature in Germany

To succeed and command credibility, nature conservation policy needs valid data on public awareness of nature and on attitudes, knowledge and motivation with regard to nature and biodiversity conservation. Germany’s first comprehensive public nature awareness survey was carried out in 2009 for the Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety.

Questions in the representative survey focused on how people conceive, experience and identify with nature, the value attached to nature by individuals and society and, at a more specific level, attitudes towards biodiversity and its conservation. Some 2,015 individuals aged 18 or older from all parts of Germany took part in the survey. To cover the sociocultural perspective, tested sets of questions were used to assign respondents to social groups delineated in terms of attitude and social situation.

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Indicator for public awareness of biodiversity

The National Strategy on Biological Diversity in Germany includes countless goals and measures for improving the public’s awareness of biodiversity. In 2007, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation commissioned a research project to develop an indicator that provides information about achieving these goals.

The most important requirements for the new indicator stem directly from the national strategy. In Chapter B5 “Public Awareness,” it states (BMU 2007: 60f.):
Our Vision for the Future: Biological diversity will be viewed as more than simply a factor that improves the quality of life; it will be considered a prerequisite for a healthy and fulfilled life. It can be seen when people take personal responsibility for their actions.
Our Goals: By 2015, at least 75% of the population should consider sustaining biological diversity a priority. The significance of biological diversity should be firmly anchored in the public’s awareness and people should align their actions accordingly, which will drastically reduce the depletion of biological diversity.”

The most important indicator requirements and the general framework for its construction include:
– The indicator should present three dimensions of biological diversity: “Knowledge,” “Attitudes,” and “Behaviors.”
– The indicator should be based on representative surveys.
– If possible, data should be collected every year. At the very least, every four years.

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General principles for modern communication of biodiversity

The Convention on Biological Diversity (1992) and Germany’s Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG, 2002) introduced the concept of biodiversity to German nature conservation policy. The German National Strategy on Biological Diversity formulated the concept of biodiversity in more concrete terms. Taking in genetic, species and habitat diversity along with sustainable use, the concept of biodiversity adds an extra layer of complexity for nature conservation practitioners when communicating biodiversity-related issues. There is a clear risk of too much being expected of the public.

In light of this, BfN funded research into how biodiversity issues have been communicated in Germany to date and how such communication can be improved. Communication researchers urgently call for a reduction in thematic complexity. Especially when addressing a broad public, the advice is to focus on positive, fascinating aspects of biodiversity such as the diversity of life forms.

The study’s findings are summarised in a publication for interested practitioners, administrators and researchers who deal closely with specific sectors of the public in their information and communication work and do not want to leave the success of communication on biodiversity to chance.

  • LICHTL, M., ROHR, C. & KASPERSKY, N. (Bearb.) (2009): Leitmotive für eine moderne Kommunikation zur Biologischen Vielfalt. Naturschutz und Biologische Vielfalt 80. Münster (Landwirtschaftsverlag), 88 S. (in German only)

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Ethics report

Biodiversity conservation and climate change are priority areas in German government nature conservation policy. Policy implementation takes place through the National Strategy on Biological Diversity (NBS) and the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS). Both of these strategies are based on UN conventions – the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

A report has been prepared for BfN on the ethical arguments and justifications for biodiversity conservation in the context of climate change. Publication is planned for the end of 2010.

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Nature Conservation and Public Debate

In times of economic stagnation and high unemployment, nature conservation is often perceived as a job-killer and a barrier to economic growth. Although nature conservation cannot always be expressed in figures and its objectives go far beyond the mere achievement of targets, there are many examples of how nature conservation activities generate added socio-economic value. This serves to boost public acceptance of nature conservation efforts in times when the economy is ailing. These arguments were taken up in a study commissioned by the Federal Nature Conservation Agency (BfN) in 2005. The research findings were published as part of a BfN series and a summarised version is also available in the form of a flyer:

"Natur ist Mehr-Wert"  BfN-Skripten 154, 2005, pdf-Datei
to order at

Faltblatt "Natur ist Mehr-Wert"
to order at

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Management Strategies

Successful nature conservation calls for knowledge on promising management strategies. The use of checklists and knowledge of best-practice models can assist in planning and implementation of collaborative nature conservation projects.

A research project completed in 2005 looked at ways of raising public acceptance of protected areas. A subsequent workshop provided an opportunity to discuss practical approaches to the problem. The final report and workshop documentation were published in the BfN publication series, BfN-Skripten:

The BfN series also includes publications on best-practice management strategies for use in nature conservation:

  • BREITSCHUH, ULRIKE & FEIGE, IRMELA (2003): Projektmanagement im Naturschutz - Leitfaden für kooperative Naturschutzprojekte (2003) (Project Management in Nature Conservation: Guide for Collaborative Nature Conservation Projects) 220 pp., EUR 12.00, ISBN 3-7843-3838-0
  • BRENDLE, UWE (1999): Musterlösungen im Naturschutz - politische Bausteine für erfolgreiches Handeln (1999) (Model Approaches to Nature Conservation: Policy Modules for Successful Management) 262 pp., EUR 16.00, ISBN 3-7843-3800-3

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