German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)


Climate change, tourism and biodiversity

The topic biodiversity - climate change - tourism is rather complex and poses great challenges for future tourism development. Stakeholders agree that biodiversity is a basis for tourism of great value in the researched areas. Since tourism can also be a risk for biodiversity, strategic planning and joint responsibility are necessary. To contribute to climate protection, tourism has to become more climate-friendly, especially regarding traffic, accommodation and leisure activities. But also climate change affects biodiversity through changes in dispersion and chance of survival of many species. Besides, a changing climate can alter tourism flows and demands on which tourism entrepreneurs in the destinations must respond to.

R&D project: Biodiversity and climate change - challenges for touirsm destinations

Three types of landscape, three tourist magnets from left to right: Inland waters, coast and low mountain range (© B. Engels)
Three types of landscape, three tourist magnets from left to right: Inland waters, coast and low mountain range (© B. Engels)

Tourism destinations need substantiated and concerted strategies for a sustainable development, especially if they contain areas of high landscape potential and biodiversity. To maintain this potential, biodiversity conservation as well as climate adaption and mitigation (e.g. by reducing greenhouse gas emissions) should be guaranteed. To survive in international competition, the regions have to develop unique selling propositions so that general advices cannot be given. Rather, it is essential that stakeholders communicate in a broad, open-minded and innovative way. Thus, they can support each other when it comes to implement concrete measures. For this, the Research and Development Project BiKliTour (German acronym for ‘Tourism destinations as model regions for the development of adaptation strategies to address the issues biodiversity, tourism and climate change’) provided a forum and accompanied the strategy discussions by experts in several tourism regions representative for Germany.

The involved stakeholders see themselves faced with multiple changes. The awareness for the topic named above depends on the personal background and direct vulnerability: representatives of nature conservation and forestry with longer planning horizons see greater need for action than tourism representatives. The latter recognize problems of a changing climate mainly in winter sport destinations with decreasing snow certainty and in sensitive coastal areas. Elsewhere, risks through climate change play a minor role and climate change is seen only as a problem that must be solved on a global scale or as a challenge for future generations. Threats for biodiversity are rather estimated to come through changes caused by agricultural land use intensification, e.g. in fertile areas through bioenergy production, or by land use abandonment in marginal areas. Task-oriented regional action is still an exception and needs further discussion as well as individual motivation and targeted initiative.

With alternative tourism development scenarios (“wellness“ and “adventure“), strategies and problem solving approaches were developed for the three research areas ‘Biosphere Reserve Südost-Rügen’, ‘Nature Park Feldberger Seenlandschaft’ and for the area of the large-scale conservation project ‘Feldberg-Belchen-Oberes Wiesental’, with the aim to respond to foreseeable changes in recreation demands and associated mobility and infrastructural needs. It turned out that tourism development, climate change adaption and biodiversity conservation can create synergies for a sustainable regional development if key stakeholders develop solutions together. Various proposals were developed to maintain touristic use with joint solutions in a good manner.

The research areas consider themselves rather as potential winners of climate change and expect a by tendency higher visitor volume. Aside there are further trends such as more short trips or rising fuel prices from which destinations in Germany may benefit from. In touristic interesting extreme habitats (e.g. mountain top ridges), a higher pressure is expected. Regional stakeholders must take common action so that tourism doesn`t endanger its natural basis. There was already cross-thematic exchange in the research areas by now, but only sporadic and with a need for consolidation.

Analyses of effectiveness in practice show that promising initiatives have to come from the region itself. It is helpful when local key stakeholders take action. Especially important are networks of key stakeholders from the most relevant sectors (nature conservation, tourism, regional planning, agriculture, forestry, and politics) on-site. Unfortunately, existing financial instruments don`t suffice to promote a continuous regional development, either being temporally restricted or being too specialized (on pilot projects instead of implementation of successful methods), particularly if they should deal sustainably with the challenges to come.

For strategies to combine tourism development and biodiversity in times of climate change, first, in the research areas methods were tested and suggestions were developed and, second, these proposals were generalized with regard to similar regions (North and Baltic Sea coast, Northern German lowlands, low and high mountain ranges). Most recommendable are nature-orientated accommodation facilities and touristic offers about health protection, wellness and the regional landscape and cultural characteristics. Issues of nature conservation should be better integrated into touristic offers. Offers for nature observation and environmental education are as useful as avoidance of disturbance, preservation and development of valuable nature objects, also in responsibility of the tourism sector. Therefore, financing options are discussed and successful examples from practice (i.a. a kind of nature tax) are presented. In reference to climate protection, suggestions to establish alternative traffic concepts were made in all regions, some of them having already started implementation. Especially measures to promote electro mobility promise synergy effects for nature conservation and climate protection as well as for growing demands of elder people. Together with the support and marketing of regional products, this can contribute to a successful development of the regional image.

Project partners: Institut für Ökologische Raumentwicklung (IÖR)  in Kooperation with Institut für Landespflege.

Project duration: 2011-2014


Last Change: 20/01/2020