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Environment & Climate

Essential Diversity

16 national parks and 18 biosphere reserves between the North Sea and the Alps afford many rare animal and plant species special protection.
Lebenswichtige Vielfalt
Eric/stock.adobe.com

Germany is a country with great biological diversity. Around 48,000 animal species and 24,000 types of higher plants, mosses, fungi, lichens, and algae are native to the country. Having been enshrined in the Basic Law in 1994, the protection of the natural habitats is an official goal of government. Between the North Sea and the Alps, the lawmakers have designated 16 national parks and 18 UNESCO biosphere reserves that vary considerably in character, along with thousands of nature reserves.

Germany is a signatory state to the most ­important international agreements on biodiversity and a party to more than 30 intergovernmental treaties and programmes with nature protection as their goal. By ratifying the United Nations’ Convention on Biodiversity, the governments of 196 countries pledged to significantly reduce the rate of loss of biological diversity. To date, however, no turnaround in the extinction of species has been achieved. In 2010, an international framework for access to genetic resources and fair benefit sharing was passed at the Conference of Parties to the Convention in Nagoya (Japan). The Nagoya Protocol has been in force since 2014.

Preserving natural and wildlife habitats

Among native species of fauna in Germany, 35 percent are endangered, while the figure is 26 percent for native flora (as of 2018). For this reason, efforts aimed at nature conservation and species protection on land and in the water are to be stepped up. The primary objective is to reduce the destruction of habitats by house and road building, as well as the pollution levels that result, among other things, from intensive farming and over-fertilisation. The amount of land used for housing construction and new transport routes is set to be reduced to less than 30 hectares a day by 2030.

A further aim is to allow “wilderness” on two percent of the nation’s territory and give five percent of forests over to nature. In 2015, numerous former military zones covering a total of 31,000 hectares, including moors and heaths, were devoted to nature conservation.

Protecting the ecosystem of the oceans

Increasing attention is being paid to protecting the marine environment. Seas are rich in biodiversity and a source of raw materials, energy, and food. Oil production, shipping, overfishing, littering with poorly degradable substances (plastic waste), and acidification caused by carbon dioxide put an immense strain on the ecosystem. In the context of Germany’s G20 Presidency in 2017, government representatives and experts agreed on a joint action plan to stop the littering of the oceans.

The Federal Government is using its EU Presidency in 2020 to ambitiously expand European environmental protection, with more funding for nature conservation and a new independent EU conservation fund. Particular attention will be given to the insect die-off. The Federal Government intends to launch an action plan to improve living conditions for insects.

Germany is also supporting the biodiversity strategy and the “Farm to Fork” strategy introduced by the European Commission in May 2020. This forms part of the Green Deal and is intended to promote biodiversity and sustainable food production within the EU.