Culture and nature

Biosphere Reserves

UNESCO biosphere reserves are model regions for sustainable development. They strike a balance between the interests of environmental conservation and social and economic development.

686 UNESCO Biosphere Reserves currently exist in 122 countries, 16 of them in Germany. In Europe in particular, these are often traditional cultural landscapes with a high degree of biological diversity shaped by human activity. Biosphere Reserves promote, for example, the marketing of organic food, seek solutions in conflicts regarding the use of land and strengthen education for sustainable development. The German Commission for UNESCO strengthens Biosphere Reserves in Germany and worldwide by supporting political processes and innovative projects.

Biosphere Reserves in Germany

The German biosphere reserves cover some 3 % of the German land area. “Biosphere reserve” is a category in the German federal law for nature conservation. All 16 territories designated as UNESCO biosphere reserves are at the same time gazetted under German law.

The 16 German UNESCO biosphere reserves represent important German habitats, typical landscapes and the diversity of ecosystems, fauna and flora in this country. Almost all biosphere reserves are cultural landscapes, which are cultivated at different levels of intensity; almost all are located in rural areas.

Because of the low environmental impact and their attractive landscape, the German biosphere reserves are popular recreation areas for tourists.

  • Berchtesgadener Land
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1990
    (Extension and renaming 2010)
    Area: 840 km2
    Federal state: Bavaria
  • Black Forest
    Year of UNESCO designation: 2017
    Area: 630 km2
    Federal state: Baden-Wuerttemberg
  • Bliesgau
    Year of UNESCO designation: 2009
    Area: 361,5 km2
    Federal state: Saarland
  • Elbe River Landscape
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1979 (Extension 1997)
    Area: 2,822.5 km2
    Federal states: Lower Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt
  • Palatinate Forest (D) – Northern Vosges (F)
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1998
    Area: Transboundary (Germany and France) 3,018 km2, 1,809.2 km2 in Germany
    Federal state (in Germany): Rhineland-Palatinate
  • Rhön
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1991
    (Extension 2014)
    Area: 2,433,2 km2
    Federal states: Bavaria, Hesse, Thuringia
  • Schaalsee
    Year of UNESCO designation: 2000
    Area: 310 km2
    Federal state: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
  • Schorfheide-Chorin
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1990
    Area: 1.292 km2
    Federal state: Brandenburg
  • South-East Rügen
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1991
    Area: 228 km2
    Federal state: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
  • Spree Forest
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1991
    Area: 475 km2
    Federal state: Brandenburg
  • Swabian Alb
    Year of UNESCO designation: 2009
    Area: 850 km2
    Federal state: Baden-Wuerttemberg
  • Upper Lausitz Heath and Pond Landscape
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1996
    Area: 301 km2
    Federal state: Saxony
  • Thuringian Forest
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1979
    (Extensions 1986, 1990, 2018)
    Area: 337 km2
    Federal state: Thuringia
  • Wadden Sea and Hallig Islands of Schleswig-Holstein
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1990
    (Extension and renaming 2004)
    Area: 4,431 km2
    Federal state: Schleswig-Holstein
  • Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1992
    Area: some 2,400 km2
    Federal state: Lower Saxony
  • Wadden Sea of Hamburg
    Year of UNESCO designation: 1992
    Area: 117 km2
    Federal state: Hamburg

The German biosphere reserves cooperate closely and their managers have semi-annual meetings. Also via the umbrella organization Europarc Germany they exchange information and best practice, also with German National Parks and Nature Parks. "Nationale Naturlandschaften" is the joint marketing label introduced in late 2005 for all biosphere reserves, national parks and nature parks.

The secretariat of the MAB National Committee – and the first contact for all questions relating to biosphere reserves in Germany – is the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.