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Germany - Country Profile

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Biodiversity Facts

Status and trends of biodiversity, including benefits from biodiversity and ecosystem services

Germany has a land area of 357,138 km2 and its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the North Sea and Baltic Sea totals 32,991 km2. According to current information, some 48,000 animal species, 10,300 plant species and 14,400 species of fungi occur in Germany. The largest group of animals is insects, with 33,305 species. To date, only 53 endemic animal species and 85 endemic families of ferns and flowering plants are known. A study of the distribution of the plant communities among the major topographic regions revealed that more plant communities occur in the more varied hill and mountain country areas (653) than in the lowland areas (577).

More than half of the country’s area (52%) is currently used for agricultural purposes. From 1994 to 2010, the share of farmland accounted for by organic farming increased from 1.6% to 5.9% (990,702 ha). About 31% of the land area (11.1 million ha) is covered by forest. Since 1993, there has been continuous growth in the land use categories of buildings and traffic infrastructure on the one hand and a continuous growth of recreational areas on the other hand. The total distance covered by all streams and rivers in Germany adds up to 400,000 km, including minor streams and rivers. Over the past 30 years, the quality of the water in many rivers and streams has distinctly improved. For example, the pollution in the Rhine and the Elbe has been reduced so considerably that nearly all fish species have returned, even the salmon.

In 1998, according to the endangerment classification under the Red Lists, the existence of 36% of approximately 16,000 animal species studied in Germany was threatened, with 3% of species being extinct or lost. The 1996 edition of the German Red List of threatened plants contained approximately 3,000 ferns and flowering plants. Of these, 26.8% are threatened and 1.6% are extinct or lost. The Volume 1 (Vertebrates) of the current German Red List of animals and plants was published in October 2009. Twenty-eight percent of the evaluated animal species are threatened and 8% of species are extinct or lost.

Main pressures on and drivers of change to biodiversity (direct and indirect)

The main causes of species diversity loss are, to regionally varying degrees, intensive farming and forestry, landscape dissection and urban sprawl, soil sealing and pollutants (e.g. acidifying chemicals and nutrients). In human settlements, negative impacts are brought about by the loss of near-natural habitats and village structures due to building and soil sealing. Threats to coastal habitats include disturbance from increased recreational use and construction of, for example, coastal defences.

Climate change is already having marked effects on nature. For example, apple trees have been starting to blossom nearly four days earlier per decade since 1980. Migratory birds (e.g. blackcap) are returning from their winter quarters considerably earlier. On the basis of model calculations, the decades to come are expected to bring changes in the range of distribution of species and in the quality of habitats within the present distribution areas.

Alien species are also a factor endangering biological diversity. At present, some 317 alien animal species (neozoans) and at least 452 alien plant species (neophytes) are considered to be established in Germany, of which 10% are causing a serious threat to biodiversity.

Measures to Enhance Implementation of the Convention

Implementation of the NBSAP

The German Government adopted the National Strategy on Biological Diversity in 2007. The Strategy formulates visions and establishes objectives and targets for conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity in Germany, as well as in regard to Germany’s contribution to conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity worldwide. These are made specific through more than 400 measures which call for the various governmental and non-governmental players at all levels to take action. The Strategy as a whole pays equal attention to environmental, economic and social aspects in the spirit of the guiding principle of sustainability. The Strategy is embedded in the National Sustainability Strategy and also linked to a number of relevant German sectoral strategies.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment began a comprehensive dialogue and implementation process at the end of 2007. Governmental and non-governmental stakeholders were involved in numerous dialogue-oriented forums. Since the second half of 2008, dialogue forums have been held for specific groups of actors. This series of workshops is continuing and actor groups are selected from the areas of nature conservation, business, science and research, social consciousness and rural regions. The aim of the dialogue forums is to hold discussions with specific actor groups about ways and means of implementing targets and measures of the National Strategy on Biological Diversity, and facilitate the establishment of alliances and agree concrete steps for implementing targets and measures.

The younger generation was also addressed through its own dialogue process and a major youth conference.

The Federal States (Länder) play an important role in preserving biological diversity because of their responsibility for nature conservation and landscape management. More and more Länder have developed their own biodiversity strategies or action plans and programmes relating to biodiversity, or are currently doing so. A municipal alliance for biodiversity was founded at the start of 2012.

Actions taken to achieve the 2020 Aichi Biodiversity Targets

In 2005, the initiative for the preservation of the “National Natural Heritage” was started. In order to protect this heritage, the Federal Government has consigned 125,000 ha of nationally significant lands to the Länder, the German Environment Foundation and environmental protection groups since then.

In 2007, the German Government launched the “Business and Biodiversity” initiative. Businesses which join the initiative sign a “Leadership Declaration” and commit to embedding biodiversity conservation in their business policy in the future and, among other things, to establishing measurable targets for improved protection and sustainable use of biological diversity, which are reviewed and updated every two to three years. To date, 24 businesses have joined this international initiative. In addition to this network of frontrunner companies, in 2013, the Federal Ministry for the Environment started a common project with German Business associations and Environmental NGOs to reach a broader involvement of business in the implementation of the National Strategy. Also, to determine the importance of biodiversity and its services for the global economy, and thereby create the basis for more effective biodiversity protection, the German Government and the European Commission together initiated the “The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity – TEEB” study.

“Natural Capital Germany – TEEB DE” is the national follow-up project to the international TEEB study. The project’s overarching goal is to raise awareness concerning the values of biodiversity and nature in Germany and its ecosystem services, and to help with incorporating these values into decision-making at all levels. It has an open organizational structure and supports the communication of results. Between 2012 and 2015, four reports and two brochures were subsequently produced. Scientists, experts and interested parties are encouraged to take part in the “Natural Capital Germany” process as authors of the reports or in external reviews.

The “Natura 2000” network of protected areas is currently being built up throughout the EU to implement the Habitats Directive and Birds Directive. Following a lengthy registration procedure, the necessary Habitats Directive registrations in Germany are now complete, comprising 15.4% of the country’s area. In Germany’s Exclusive Economic Zone (12-200 nautical miles), the German Government notified the EU Commission of ten marine protection areas in the North Sea and Baltic Sea in 2004. Together, these amount to 32% of the EEZ. In addition, there are currently 134 National Natural Landscapes (14 National Parks, 16 Biosphere Reserves and 104 Nature Parks) that provide for conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity (e.g. sustainable tourism; another NBS target of 10% eco-tourism in Germany by 2020). Together, these major protected areas cover approximately one-third of Germany’s surface area. Furthermore, there are 34 Ramsar sites, 8,588 Nature Conservation Areas and more than 7,700 Landscape Reserves. The Nature Conservation Areas and the Landscape Reserves together cover an area of approximately 32% of the country; in many cases they overlap with the National Natural Landscapes.

Germany remains committed to the international ABS process. After the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol in 2010, Germany has chosen to sign it and thereby demonstrated its ongoing and active commitment to implement and ratify it. Currently, implementation acts are being developed at the EU level and at the domestic level. In addition, there are several bottom-up approaches to ABS ongoing in various sectors of users of genetic resources in Germany. Such existing approaches will feed into the ongoing implementation processes. Germany has already amended its Patents Act to include the requirement for information about the geographical origin of genetic resources.

The Cabinet adopted a National Strategy for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) in 2006, which is intended to help develop and maintain the coastal zone as an ecologically intact and economically prosperous living space for human populations. In 2008, the German Government adopted a National Strategy for the Sustainable Use and Protection of the Seas (also known as the “National Marine Strategy”) which promotes the concepts of the Ecosystem Approach and integration of marine conservation interests in other policy areas. The German Government also adopted a Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change in 2008.

In 2009 and 2011, a national Nature Awareness Study was published. This population survey on nature and biological diversity, based on a representative sample of the German-speaking resident population, covers all major topics of biodiversity. The Federal Environment Ministry and the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation have initiated a comprehensive project to accompany the United Nations Decade on Biological Diversity 2011-2020. The project aims at creating large-scale public awareness for biodiversity and stimulating people’s engagement for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use. The focuses of the project relate to Aichi Biodiversity Targets 1 und 4.

Support mechanisms for national implementation (legislation, funding, capacity-building, coordination, mainstreaming, etc.)

As a result of a constitutional reform in Germany in 2006, legislative competence for nature conservation was reorganised. The general provisions of the new Federal Nature Protection Act (Federal Nature Conservation Act – BNatSchG - from July 29th, 2009; entry into force March 1st, 2010) make the objectives of nature conservation and landscape maintenance clearer than in the past, and subdivide them as follows: 1) conserving biological diversity, 2) safeguarding the sustainable usability of natural assets, and 3) safeguarding the diversity, characteristic features, beauty and recreational value of nature and landscape.

Since 1990, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) has been required by law for certain projects. Since 2005, a strategic environmental assessment (SEA) has also been prescribed by law for certain plans and programmes. Under federal law, these include traffic infrastructure plans, air traffic plans, regional planning (federal, land and regional levels, EEZ), physical development plans (land use and local development plans) and flood control plans (“risk management plans”), energy grid plans (on-shore and off-shore), programmes of measures under water legislation, air quality control, noise abatement and waste management plans, operational programmes and development programmes according to the structural funds and development funds of the European Union.

Different certification systems are currently recognised in Germany. In 2011, approximately 70% of the land under forest (ca. 7.40 million ha) was certified according to PEFC criteria and 5% according to FSC criteria. (ca. 0.54 million ha), though it should be noted that some areas are certified under more than one system at the same time. Eco-certification of fishing and fishery products is another example. The Marine Stewardship Council, an independent non-profit organisation, awards eco-labels to fishing operations which are shown to have only slight impacts on the marine environment, are responsibly run and do not contribute to the problem of overfishing.

Every year, Germany makes €14 million available for new and existing major nature conservation projects. The Federal Environment Ministry provides assistance totalling some €4.5 million a year for projects run by the environmental and nature conservation associations. Research funds for nature conservation in the Federal Environment Ministry’s environmental research plan rose from €6.3 million in 2005 to €10.25 million in 2012. Since 2011, a new and additional funding program to implement the National Strategy on Biological Diversity, in the amount of €15 million per year, has been set annually.

Every year, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) invests some €30 million in biosphere and biodiversity research. Conservation and, above all, the sustainable use of biodiversity are focal points of existing and future BMBF programmes.

Government support is also provided for the federal organic farming programme (BÖL) which was launched in 2002 to improve the framework conditions for organic farming. Since the start of the BÖL programme, more than 40 measures have been designed and implemented and a total of around 840 research projects have received support. The programme was provided with €34.8 million for 2002, approximately €36 million for 2003, €20 million annually for 2004 to 2006, and €16 million respectively for 2007 until 2012.

The European Union provides financial resources for agri-environmental measures through the European Agricultural Fund for Regional Development (EAFRD), which forms the second pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The aim is to reward environmentally sound forms of agricultural production sustaining nature beyond compulsory minimum requirements of good agricultural practice and cross-compliance. In federal Germany, this second pillar of the CAP is implemented by the Länder. Agri-environmental measures have to be partly funded by the Länder to qualify for EU co-financing. The German federal government may also provide co-financing under the Programme on Improving Agrarian Structures and Coastal Protection (GAK, Gemeinschaftsaufgabe ‘Verbesserung der Agrarstruktur und des Küstenschutzes). Alongside agri-environmental measures, the EAFRD Regulation also contains additional co-financing options for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity. These options include Natura 2000 compensatory payments, support for non-productive investments, and measures to conserve and enhance rural heritage. Moreover, funding is available in Germany under the GAK for measures to conserve genetic resources, locally endangered animal breeds and regionally adapted traditional crop species and varieties threatened by genetic erosion. The area supported comprised some 5.4 million ha of farmland and €577 million funds were paid out in 2010.

At the ninth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the CBD, held in Bonn in 2008, German Chancellor Angela Merkel promised an additional €500 million for the 2009-2012 period and €500 million a year from 2013 onwards for the protection of forests and other ecosystems in partner countries. As such, a total of €1.6 billion was made available for international cooperation on conserving biological diversity during the 2009-2012 period. The pledge of €500 million per annum will be reached in 2013.

Mechanisms for monitoring and reviewing implementation

In 2007, a first official report on the state of conservation of the 91 German Habitats Directive habitat types and 230 Habitats Directive species was submitted to the European Commission. Since 2008, federal and land authorities have been providing financial assistance for coordination of the honorary nationwide registration of breeding birds in normal countryside and protected areas, and of water birds. A nature conservation oriented monitoring system for the coastal region and the EEZ is currently under construction. Work on developing and maintaining a National Spatial Data Infrastructure (NSDI) is going ahead. Portals such as the National Geoportal are providing facilities for combining land use information in cartographic representations from various sources and on various subjects. As part of the national implementation of the INSPIRE Directive, federal authorities are obliged to make spatial datasets and services on environmental protection and nature conservation publicly available, in accordance with uniform European rules.

The National Strategy on Biological Diversity contains a set of indicators for a summary analysis of success. In 2010, a first Indicator Report was published by the Federal Government. Calculation and assessment of the indicators are also integral parts of reports on implementation of the Strategy to be presented by the German Government during each legislative term. The first Federal Government report on target attainment and implementation of measures under the National Biodiversity Strategy was published in 2013.

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  • United Nations
  • United Nations Environment Programme