UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Black Forest

Traditional Common Land Pastures and Near-Natural Mixed Mountain Forests

Located in the deep south-west of Germany, in the state of Baden-Württemberg, the biosphere reserve is one of the most diverse low mountain ranges of Central Europe, characterised by mixed mountain forests (on 70 percent of the area) and common land pastures. It also offers fabulous views up the snow-covered peaks of the Alps, relicts from the Ice Age, alpine animal and plant species, as well as regional specialities and customs.

In the world network of biosphere reserves, the Black Forest represents the habitats of common land mountain pastures, near-natural beech and beech fir forests, ravine forests, high mixed mountain forests with natural spruce occurrences, screes as well as rocks, moors of various types, natural and near-natural flowing waters, spring and high shrub meadows, as well as lean lowland and mountain meadows. No other German low mountain range landscape features greater height differences in the smallest space: The area rises from 310 and 1420 metres above sea level, some 38,000 people live in the region.

The cultural landscape is characterised above all by the so-called Allmend pastures, traditional common land pastures up to the highest altitudes. Allmend pastures are particularly worthy of conservation because of their great biodiversity, but only a few still exist in Germany these days. Endangered cattle breeds contribute to the preservation of the landscape, and the biosphere reserve aims to secure their continued existence through new marketing strategies for milk, cheese and meat.

Cultural richness and sustainable development

The people in the southern Black Forest have developed a variety of traditions. Almost every village has its own traditional costume. The Alemannic language and carnival are examples of the areas’s intangible cultural heritage, as is the Black Forest art of woodcarving. Mills, museums, modern building culture and traditional Black Forest houses invite tourists to learn about the diversity of the region. An above-average proportion of the inhabitants is active in part-time farming.

Citizen participation is a top priority: local people work in open forums of the biosphere reserve on implementing their ideas about land use, economy, nature conservation, education for sustainable development, as well as society, culture and social affairs. The biosphere reserve is also pursuing innovative partnerships, such as the cooperation with the Bundesliga football club SC Freiburg.

In the past 1000 years, humans have developed 10,000 hectares of grassland into pastures for cattle, sheep, and goats for milk and meat production. Today, these areas are threatened by scrub encroachment, as their cultivation is no longer profitable. To preserve the grassland landscape, which is important for tourism, too, new strategies are being developed. Promoting sustainable tourism is another priority of the young biosphere reserve.


  • Year of designation: 2017
  • State/Province: Baden-Württemberg
  • Size: 630 km² (21 km² core area and 185.23 km² buffer zone)
  • Represented landscape: Southwest German low mountain range and escarpment, grassland and forest landscapes
  • Website: www.biosphaerengebiet-schwarzwald.de