Landscape Management in Germany



  • 03/05/2010

  • REGION :

  • Western Europe


  • Germany (Bayern State)


  • As a result of past shifts in Environmental focus to preservation of rural environments and assistance for sustainable production; the European Union created the “Natura 2000 Network” in 2004. With the number of farmers decreasing and those continuing to operate having difficulty turning a profit, this effort promoted economic stimulation by encouraging various means of diversification: ・Promoting the sale of value-added products or partnering with tourism ・Subsidies for recycling, fertilizer production and bio-gas generation ・Instructing local forestry offices not to remove dead trees in order to preserve habitats for insects, snails, slugs, and fungi (sustenance for many other species) The system recognizes that the key to landscape management is a continuous effort to create harmony between landscape elements by thorough discussion among stakeholders; ・Governments ・Area inhabitants (not only representatives but all people) ・Local businesses ・NGOs ・NPOs To achieve “infrastructural development and improvement of rural areas” German agricultural policy is no longer viewing agriculture as mere producer, but extending its role as “manager of rural environment”. Taking this line of thinking to a larger scale, the European Union is striving to develop its environmental policy to protect biodiversity by shifting its target from preserving species, to areas as a whole, and creating a network of diverse ecosystems.


  • ecosystems network, Natura 2000, biodiversity conservation in agriculture


  • Dr. Noboru Matsushima is a senior researcher at Japan Wildlife Research Center (JWRC). He is a socio-economist with a keen interest in favourable relationships between human activity and natural resource management in various developing countries. He has been implementing numerous field surveys in rural areas in Southeast Asia, China, the Middle and Near East, Africa, South America and the Pacific Islands, and making helpful suggestions since 1989. Dr. San'ei Ichikawa is a chief researcher of Japan Wildlife Research Center. His academic specialty is forest ecology. He has been studying edible wildlives that are routinely used by the local people the Southeast Asia. In 2008, he joined the Satoyama Project. He witnessed wisdom of people who are cohabiting with wildlife for a long time. He also respects wildlife.

  • LINK:

  • European Environment Agency
    European Commission Environment Biodiversity Strategy
    Bavarian Environment Agency (PDF)
    Federal Agency for Nature Conservation
    Bund Naturschutz in Bayern e.V. (In German)
    Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten(In German)
    Deutscher Verband für Landschaftspflege

Europe is so developed that the farmland accounts for more than half of the total land use. Therefore, farmland is a significant target area for biodiversity conservation in Europe.

This is a field report on farmers, who are “the managers of rural environment”, environmental ministry which governs the rural landscape management, and regional forestry office which enforces the Natura 2000 in Bavaria (Bayern) state in Germany.

The original natural vegetation of southern Germany consisted chiefly of deciduous broadleaf forest composed mainly of European Beech ( Fagus sylvatica). However, most woodlands have been converted into farmlands for many centuries. On average, woodlands cover one third of Germany with a higher percentage in mountainous areas whereas woodland cover can be very low in highly productive landscapes. Therefore, arable land, meadows and pastures make up a large percentage of the land. The rural landscape in southern Germany is said not to have changed since medieval times.

However, the rural landscape is influenced deeply by agricultural and environmental policy. The initial purpose of Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which was implemented in the 1960s by the European Union was the stability of farmers’ income and self-sufficiency in food. After the policy establishment, the agricultural sector of several the European Union countries faced severe difficulties because of excessive competition and production. Among them, Germany was quick to shift into more environmental-conscious rural development policy by making a fundamental revision in their rural developmental law in 1976. The European Union also shifted the focus of CAP onto the preservation of rural environment and assistance for sustainable production. Moreover, the European Union developed its environmental policy by establishing a Council directive on the conservation of wild birds in 1976, a Council directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora in 1992, and the Natura 2000 Network in 2004, which comprises both the Bird directive and Habitats directives.

Photo 1. Common German country Landscape (Photo by JWRC)

1. Diversification of Agricultural Management

The cultural landscape has been almost unchanged, but the farmers who manage the landscape had to overcome major disturbances and troubles with their farm operation. They adopted several strategies to improve their situation. Many of the former farmers who reside in rural areas have become corporate employees or factory workers. It allowed those who continued to be farmers to lease more land and to operate larger farms.

Two dairy farms interviewed; farm 1: a goat farm (goat cheese production and sales), and farm 2: a cow breeder (direct restaurant management). Farm 1 comprises 170 hectares of total managed area, of which 100 hectares is pasture and 70 hectares is farmland, and 29 hectares is self-owned property, Farm 2 consists of 170 hectares of total managed area, of which 140 hectares is pasture and 30 hectares is farming land, and 35 hectares is self-owned property. The major impact rural development policies was contributing to the reduction of farm managers and increasing farming area.

The number of farmers decreased, and even those who continue to operate farms have difficulty in turning a profit from farm products alone; therefore they attempt to diversify their management by, for instance by selling value-added processed products or partnering with tourism. In the case of the goat farm interviewed, they switched from cows to goats, and started producing and processing goat milk into cheese. They acquired advanced manufacturing technology, which enabled them to earn an award from the Agriculture and Forestry Minister, and have been promoting their sales activity to supermarkets and coops for two generations.

In the other farm, the direct management restaurant owners generate the major part of their income from cow breeding, but they have a restaurant business which has become a major tourism spot with people coming in sightseeing buses. The restaurant is mainly run by their daughter and son-in-law, and the parents manage the farm and provide meat, sausage, ham, cheese, butter, bread, cakes, vegetable and fruits to the restaurant. It is literally direct delivery from producing area, and the beef is also produced within the farm to be served fresh to the restaurant customers. Not only is this restaurant located in the center of pasture, it also serves as a touring farm.

Moreover, governmental subsidies and technical support were granted for recycling and bio-gas generation to this farm about 15 years ago. Since then, cow dirt a byproduct of breeding is converted into bio-gas and liquid fertilizer which is applied to the grass as high quality manure. The bio-gas, on the other hand, is used for electric generation for lighting, refrigeration, and heating. There is no odor which often is associated with breeding farms. In winter when there is snow accumulation, the cows are kept in the cattle shed. During that time, the cow dirt can be collected in concentration and be recycled; therefore the electricity becomes almost entirely self-sufficient.

2. Natura 2000:

The forest management to maintain trees in biotopes

The state forest, which spreads behind the meadow, is managed by the timber industry and other forestry business. The timber market in Germany has been dominated by conifers such as fir, but broadleaf trees have come back to the market recently. Spessart State Forest is an upland region of deciduous forest dominated by European Beech ( Fagus sylvatica) and Sessile Oak ( Quercus petraea) lying at the altitude of about 500meters about 60kilometers east of Frankfurt. Beeches naturally regenerate profusely, but historically, oak acorns have been seeded in the beech forest for harvesting oak timbers. This Beech forest has the highest biodiversity in central Europe, and is actively protected by overlapping designations as a natural park and Natura 2000 site that has the ecosystem with highest natural ranking by Natura 2000, the European Union’s common nature conservation policy.

Photo 2. Beech and Oak Forest in Spessart (Photo by JWRC)

Natura 2000 is a comprehensive nature conservation policy which aims to develop ecosystem networks within EU. It was developed by integrating Council directive on the conservation of wild birds in 1976 and Council directive on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora in 1992. The Habitats directive was originally intended to complement the former Bird directive, so the newest Natura 2000 was created to preserve local areas rather than focusing on species, which was the purpose of former orders. The local forestry office has to preserve dead trees in a part of the beech forest. The dead trees in the biotopes were purposely left in the forest to preserve habitats for insects, terrestrial snails (such as snails and slugs), and fungi, which accommodates many species of woodpeckers and bats.

3. Activities of Landscape Management Office:

Bayern State Ministry of Environment

In order to ascertain the activities of the Landscape Management Office, the authors conducted an interview with Landscape Development Unit 52 of Section 5, which oversees nature protection, landscape management, and ecology in Bayern State Ministry of Environment. The conservation object of this Unit is mainly the rural Landscape. The key to the landscape management is a continuous effort to create harmony between landscape elements by thorough discussion with stakeholders including area people and NGOs, according to the officer.

Germany is so developed that developmental projects, such as highway construction, large scale supermarkets and factories, frequently take place even in rural area. For example, in Hessen, important landscape essences would be meadows for grazing goats and forests behind them. The forest has a historical reason for its existence. It has been inevitably managed as a forest because of geological reasons as well as historical and economic reasons. On the periphery of the forest there is a wetland where provides habitat for beavers. On the well drained slopes of forest, vineyards were installed to produce wines. Hikers who enjoy such landscapes from nearby cities are also one of the essences comprising the landscape.

In such cases, the “landscape development” officers make an effort to reach a harmony by coordinating discussions. The stakeholders are comprised of not only each level of area representatives, but actually all the people in the area. If there is a problem regarding the rural development, it is important to start the discussion as early as possible. The key task is to balance and harmonize all the rural landscape elements. In Germany, a concept which structurally views area’s natural resources and social economic level and elements called “Raumordnung”(setting land and space in order), is prevailing and it contributes to the broad environmental protection.

4. Summary: Landscape management in Germany

Agriculture in West Germany in the 1980s was in a difficult situation within the European Commission’s common agricultural market. In order to improve the situation, Germany transformed its agricultural policy based on a fundamental revision of rural development law in 1976, to achieve “infrastructural development and improvement of rural areas”. German agricultural policy is no longer viewing agriculture as mere producer, but extending its role as “manager of rural environment” (Ishii, 2007:199).

Table 1. The Reconciliation between Agricultural Policy (CAP) and Environmental Policy

(NATURA 2000) in European Union

Year Main Items
1958 The European Commission was established with six countries: France, West Germany, Italy, Holland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein : the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was born: the Stability of Farmers’ Income and Self-sufficiency in Food
1967 European Union First Environmental Directives (Hazardous Substances)
1976 West Germany: Revised Land Consolidation Act. Obligations to nature conservation and landscape conservation
1979 European Union Council : Birds Directive
1992 European Union Council : Habitats DetectiveCAP Agricultural policy reform through the introduction of direct payments
1993 European Union established with 15 countries participating: based on the Maastricht Consensus in 1991
1999 CAP: Agri-environmental measures of the rural development Regulation 1257/99
2001 European Union Council: Biodiversity Action Plan for Agriculture
2004 NATURA 2000 Network comprehended both Birds Directive and Habitats Derective

Source: Revised from Ecosystem Conservation Society – Japan. (2004). 

The European Union is striving to develop its environmental policy to protect biodiversity by shifting its target from preserving species to area as a whole, and make a network of diverse ecosystem areas (table 1). Natura 2000 emphasizes the importance of rural landscape and biodiversity.

For instance, people who live in rural areas but no longer practice agriculture still have opportunity to make statement about rural environmental management as a member of rural community. This attitude could be stemming from the traditional community mind that the people who live on the land “must protect their own land”. People’s high level of environmental conscience enables the high cost of direct payment toward farm businesses.

This study was commissioned by the Ministry of the Environment, Japan.


Bavarian State Ministry for Environment, Public Health and Consumer Protection (2008). Nature.Diversity.Bavaria. 31pp. München.

Ecosystem Conservation Society – Japan. (2004). Revised. Face an era of global agricultural environment – a living treasure of agricultural law. 148 pp. (in Japanese)

Ishii Y., Kanuma K., Oota I., Okuda H., Owari T., Kousaka R., Suwa M., Yasui A., Yamaki K. and Yamamoto M. (2005). Forest Management in Europe. 333pp. (in Japanese)

Ishii M. (2007). Philosophy of Land Conservation – of land use in Japan is good at it -, KOKIN SHOIN, 342pp. (In Japanese)