UNESCO Biosphere Reserve South-East Rügen

Nature and Holiday Region, Shaped by the Ice Age

In the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve South-East Rügen the high diversity of landscapes and coastal formations of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania can be found in a very small area. Rugged cliffs drop off to miles of sandy beaches on the Baltic coast. Wide reed belts line the banks on the bay side, offering ideal breeding grounds for water birds.

South-East Rügen has been shaped by glacier advances of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. After the subsequent melting of the glaciers, low-lying areas of the post-glacial landscape were flooded, and the mountain ranges of the glacial terminal moraines formed an archipelago of individual islands. The effect of wind and ocean currents formed hooks and spits between the former island cores - this type of landscape formation can exemplarily be seen in the biosphere reserve. In the world network of biosphere reserves, South-East Rügen represents the habitats of beech forests, nitrogen-poor sward, cliffed coasts, graded shorelines, and salt marshes.

The island of Vilm with its internationally renowned nature conservation academy is also located within the biosphere reserve.

Cultural diversity and sustainable development

In addition to its unique natural resources, the area of the South-East Rügen Biosphere Reserve is also rich in cultural diversity. The history of human settlement and culture on Rügen can be traced back a long way. It ranges from the megalithic tombs of the New Stone Age to tumuli of the Bronze Age, Slavic castle mounds, medieval churches and village structures, and modern age spa style tourism towns. 

The inhabitants of the South-East Rügen Biosphere Reserve are active in tourism, agriculture, or fishing. Traditional land use and fishing methods have been preserved to this day. The biosphere reserve also cooperates with about 30 partner companies.

In 2012, the biosphere reserve was awarded the title of "Charter Park for Sustainable Tourism". The EU-funded INTERREG project "Central Europe Eco-Tourism", launched in 2017, continues to support sustainable tourism.

Environmental education projects cover the dormouse on the island of Rügen, using GPS services. The biosphere reserve also supports the preservation of historic alleys across the island.

International partnerships

The biosphere reserve cooperates in the global UNESCO network of island and coast biosphere reserves as well as with biosphere reserves from Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland. In the INTERREG project mentioned above, it works together with 11 partners from 6 Central European countries on questions of sustainable tourism.


  • Year of designation: 1991
  • State/Province: Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
  • Size: 228 km² (3.34 km² core area and 37.88 km² buffer zone)
  • Represented landscape: Mecklenburg-Western Pomeranian coastal area, bodden coast with Late Ice Age island centres and steep banks
  • Website: www.biosphaerenreservat-suedostruegen.de