German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN)

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National protected areas

Selected protected area categories in Germany

Different protected area categories serve different protection goals

Designation of protected areas is one of the most important nature conservation instruments available in safeguarding biodiversity in Germany. The individual protected area categories are designated according to their purpose and legal basis.


In terms of numbers, most protected areas comprise nature conservation areas and Habitats Directive Sites of Community Importance (SCIs), (8,676 and 4,557, respectively, at the end of 2014). In terms of land, landscape protection areas are the most dominant type, with over 10 million hectares (27.9 percent of German territory), followed by nature parks with 9,946,967 hectares (27.9 percent of German territory). While the country’s 16 national parks take up only 0.6 percent of land, they have high nature conservation value and enjoy high public acceptance (status: 2014/2016).

Overlaps between many different protected area types

The EU Habitats and Birds Directives and also international agreements (such as those governing wetlands of international importance as specially designated areas (see Section 3.5.1)) help to protect areas of conservation value. This is why, among other things, large overlaps occur between various protected areas, with some actually being one and the same. For example, many nature conservation areas are also Habitat Directive SCIs and a large portion of nature parks are also protected as landscape protection areas. For this reason, areas in certain protected area categories cannot be added together to provide a figure for the total area covered by protected areas in Germany. Due to the amount of land they cover, national parks, biosphere reserves and nature parks are described as large-scale protected areas, and are presented under the common umbrella brand of ‘national natural landscapes’.

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