UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Thuringian Forest

Sustainable Mobility and Biodiversity in the Heart of Germany

The UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Thuringian Forest is located in the middle of the mountain range with the same name. Most of the area is wooded, from the heights to the deepest valleys. Mountain meadows extend all the way to the villages and form mosaic-like patterns within the large contiguous mountain spruce forest. The area is a hotspot of biodiversity and a jewel of scenic beauty. This is why tourism has a long tradition – especially the "Rennsteig" high-altitude hiking trail, which runs about 30 kilometres through the area and 170 kilometres in total, is widely known.

In the world network of biosphere reserves, the Thuringian Forest stands for the habitats of forests of European temperate climate, mountain meadows, raised bogs, and near-natural mountain rivers. Rare animal species such as the black stork or the fire salamander can be found here. More than half of the biosphere reserve's area belongs to the "NATURA 2000" European system of protected areas.

Contributions to sustainable development

Tourism has a long tradition in the Thuringian Forest and is an important economic sector today. The focus is on offers for experiencing nature. With rangers and certified nature guides, guests can experience nature up-close. Sustainable tourism includes sustainable mobility, also as a contribution to climate change mitigation. Due to its central location in Germany, the biosphere reserve is easily accessible by train. As a member of the cooperation Fahrtziel Natur, it is advertised nationwide by the German railway company and has won an award for its activities within this scheme.

The KOMET project pursues sustainable settlement development in order to support municipalities affected by demographic change in dealing with vacancies, and to raise awareness among inhabitants and to involve them in decision-making. This way, municipalities are supposed to remain lively and worth living in the future. Altogether, the biosphere reserve is only sparsely populated with some 4000 inhabitants.

Since 2013, a pilot project addresses forest restructuring in the context of climate change. It involves the introduction of the silver fir, sustainable hunting management, and adaptation strategies. Another focus is in restoration of narrow forest streams, also supporting the fire salamander population.  

Education for sustainable development offers for children include project days, the biosphere reserve rally, holiday offers, programmes for kindergartens and schools, cooperation with UNESCO Associated Schools, and the junior ranger programme. For adults, the programme includes tours with nature guides, wildlife observation, as well as advanced teacher training, and volunteering opportunities.

International cooperation

The biosphere reserve is currently entering into a partnership with the Central Balkan biosphere reserve in Bulgaria. Both face similar challenges and opportunities, resulting among others from recent enlargements, and benefit from this exchange.


  • Year of designation: 1979 (1st enlargement 1986, 2nd enlargement 1990, 3rd enlargement 2018)
  • State/Province: Thuringia
  • Size: 337 km² (10.4 km² core area and 79.3 km² buffer zone)
  • Represented landscape: Thuringian-Franconian low mountain range
  • Website: www.biosphaerenreservat-thueringerwald.de