RO-R-1: Priority and reserved areas for nature and landscape

The picture shows a hilly landscape with meadows, hedges, groups of trees and wooded areas in autumnal light. Click to enlarge
Priority/reservation areas for nature and landscape contribute to the large-scale biotope network
Source: Photograph: © ExQuisine /

2019 Monitoring Report on the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change

Table of Contents


RO-R-1: Priority and restricted areas reserved for wildlife and landscape conservation

In 2017 Germany had approximately 122,000 square kilometres – roughly one third of its terrain – designated as priority or restricted areas reserved for wildlife and landscape. Länder and regional planning authorities use this measure to support the biotope network thus helping animal and plant species to adapt their specific distribution range to changing climatic conditions.

A line represents the area of the priority and reserved areas for nature and landscape as indexed values.
RO-R-1: Priority and restricted areas reserved for wildlife and landscape conservation

A line represents the area of the priority and reserved areas for nature and landscape as indexed values. The year 2009 is set to 100. There is no trend until 2017. In addition, the areas of the priority and reserved areas for nature and landscape are shown in a stacking column in square kilometres in three categories: Reserved areas for nature and landscape without overlap (with a significantly decreasing trend), Priority areas for nature and landscape without overlap (with a significantly increasing trend) and Overlaps of priority and reserved areas (with a significantly decreasing trend). In terms of area, the reserved areas clearly dominate.

Source: BBSR (ROPLAMO - spatial planning monitor)

Safeguarding space for evolution – priority and restricted areas reserved for wildlife and landscape

Climate change will have wide-ranging impacts on ecological conditions affecting animal and plant species. Higher temperatures and a changing precipitation regime as well as extreme events affect various components of ecosystems, impacting on functions such as nutrient regime, habitat structures or the availability of food. In the final analysis, this means that the demarcations of habitats available to animals and plants are likely to shift.

In these circumstances, a functioning compound system or network of biotopes is essential for the survival of highly specialised species which require specific locations and habitats. In a contiguous network of ecologically meaningful open spaces, species are able to explore and colonise new, climatically more suitable habitats of sufficient size and content. This is the only way to safeguard the essential genetic exchange among different populations and occurrences.

By designating priority and restricted areas reserved for wildlife and landscape, spatial planning can contribute to building an ecological network. In this way spatial planning is able to safeguard areas or impose restrictions on use which are important for the adaptation of animal and plant species to climate-related changes. In 2017 this was actually achieved on slightly more than one third of the entire terrain of the Federal Republic of Germany. In that year, a total of approximately 122,000 square kilometres were designated as priority and/ or restricted areas. It should be borne in mind that the evaluation covers a partly heterogeneous accumulation of designations applied in various Länder, such as spatial planning areas reserved for the protection of wildlife, the protection of landscape and landscape-related recreation as well as areas reserved for the development of an ecological network. This is why in some places, there is a degree of overlap between priority and restricted areas, for example when terrain is reserved as priority areas for species and habitat protection at the same time serving as restricted areas for the special protection of landscapes. In the time series concerned, these partial areas are taken into account only once.

Between 2010 and 2014, the designated terrain decreased by approximately 6,000 square kilometres. In particular, restricted area designations were withdrawn and this loss was only partly offset by fresh designations of priority areas. Between 2014 and 2017, the size of designated terrain was increased again by 3,200 square kilometres owing to the designation of priority areas.

Nearly all planning regions avail themselves of the opportunity to designate priority or restricted areas reserved for wildlife and landscape. The large-scale use of designation categories demonstrates the importance which planning regions attach to the protection of wildlife and landscape and, consequently, the creation and conservation of an ecological network. These figures alone, however, do not permit an assessment whether the ecological network fulfils its purpose and whether the landscape is genuinely permeable, allowing the passage of animal and plant species. Such evaluation would have to take into account, above all, how the designated areas are spatially distributed and networked, and what ecological quality they are able to offer. Moreover, priority and restricted areas are not the only areas which ought to safeguard ecological interconnections. The development and safeguarding of biotope connectivity is primarily the remit of nature conservation bodies which, among other things, designate protected areas on the basis of nature conservation law; these bodies plan and implement the management of designated areas. These areas are also part of the biotope network. However, they are only covered by this evaluation insofar as they are designated as priority or restricted areas. As far as spatial planning itself is concerned, not all tools in the toolbox are taken into account, such as regional green belts and corridors which might benefit an ecological network. It is true, however, that such areas also play important parts in recreational terms thus conflicting with the biotope network. This is why they are not taken into account in this context.

Apart from beneficial effects, such ecological networks unfortunately also give rise to opportunities for less pleasing developments. It is expected for example that as a result of climate change, undesirable species brought in by humans will be able to further widen their distribution range. This problem will have to be addressed by good management of ecological networks in order to prevent any developments counteracting nature conservation objectives or at least to minimise their impacts.



BD-R-2: Protected areas



Assisting the adaptation of species to climate based shift of habitats by means of regulatory planning support for the purpose of safeguarding the priority areas reserved for nature conservation and for safeguarding an ecological network (DAS, ch. 3.2.14)

Safeguarding a functionally contiguous network of ecologically important open spaces thus facilitating migration across national borders (Handlungskonzept Klimawandel, MKRO 2013, ch. 3.7)

Safeguarding habitat corridors and functional spaces for the genetic exchange among populations in habitats worth protecting by means of spatial, regional and physical planning, incorporation of memoranda for further habitat corridors in spatial planning designs (Bundesprogramm Wiedervernetzung, ch. C.3.1, C.3.2)