Legislative competences are shared between the federal level (“Bund”) and the level of the 16 Länder in Germany. The 2006 reform of the Constitution transferred more policies to the federal level. Most environmental policies (waste disposal, air protection, water and nature protection) are “concurrent [shared] competences”, where the Länder have the right to adopt their own provisions. However, the general principles of nature conservation, the right to protection of species and the protection of the marine environment are exempted from this possibility of deviations in the area of nature conservation and landscape conservation.

The Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUB) is responsible for many policies relevant for Green Infrastructure. The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (Bundesamt für Naturschutz, BfN) is the scientific authority with respect to national and international nature conservation. The ministries for Environment of the 16 Länder are coordinated within the Conference of Environment Ministers (Umweltministerkonferenz).

In the following list, the key legislative frameworks, policies and initiatives most relevant for GI on federal level are described. It should be noted that these are further complemented from the individual Länder level.

  • The most important legal basis for nature conservation in Germany is the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG), which includes, among other things, the transposition of European Nature Conservation Directives, in particular the Habitats Directive (Directive 92/43 / EEC) and the Birds Directive (Directive 2009/147 / EC) into national law. In addition to the requirements for the protection of nature various other regulations across policy areas are of importance for green infrastructure. These include regulations on landscape planning, compensation for nature and landscape impacts, ecosystem defragmentation and connectivity, protection of the marine environment, recreation in nature, as well as the participation of recognized nature conservation associations in relevant decision-making procedures. These federal regulations are then further supplemented by national regulations of the 16 states (Länder), which may result in deviations from the federal regulations. Therefore, it is indispensable in practice to cross-check the relevant national nature protection law as well.

According to the division of powers under the German basic law (Grundgesetz), the implementation of nature protection related laws and regulations falls within the exclusive competence of the Länder with few exceptions. According to Article 83 of the Basic Law, this is the case when implementing the federal laws, such as the Federal Nature Conservation Act. This is based not least on practical considerations, as the state authorities can best assess the special circumstances on the ground.

  • The nature conservation law (§§ 13 - 18 BNatSchG) regulates the handling of interventions in nature and landscape and thus pursues a comprehensive approach. At the heart of the interventions are the mitigation hierarchy and the polluter pays principle. Other important fundamental principles are the precautionary principle, the balancing act, and, in the case of compensation requirements, the priority of substantive compensation before compensation payments. In accordance with these principles, the polluter is obliged to avoid preventable damage by the intervention and to minimize it as far as possible (precautionary principle). Unavoidable damage/impairments must be compensated or replaced by compensatory measures (substitute measures). A damage is compensated when the impaired natural functions are restored and function in an equivalent way as before the intervention, and the landscape is restored or redeveloped. If the impairments cannot be avoided nor compensated or replaced within a reasonable timeframe, and the interests of nature conservation and landscape management weigh heavier than other interests, the intervention may not be allowed (balancing rule). Only when an intervention is permitted by overcoming the interests of nature and landscape conservation, and a material compensation is not possible, the polluter has to compensate in the form of money.  
  • The landscape planning law (Landschaftsplanung§§ 8-12 BnatSchG) was, like the intervention regulation (Eingriffsregelung), implemented in 1976 with the nature conservation law (Bundesnaturgesetz). It is the central planning instrument of nature conservation and landscape management and spatially defines the aims of nature and landscape conservation/management as the basis for acting in a precautionary way at local and regional levels. Requirements and measures to achieve these aims must be presented and justified, and should contribute to their implementation. The concrete objectives, requirements and measures that are formulated in landscape planning on the national, regional and local level are adressed to nature conservation administration, regional and land use planning authorities, specialist administrative departments, municipalities (also besides their responsibility for land use planning), associations and also indirectly to land users and citizens.

The content of landscape planning needs to be taken into account in all planning and administrative procedures whose decisions have an effect on nature and landscape. If it cannot be taken into consideration, this must be justified. In this way, landscape planning can contribute to the establishment of green infrastructure. It doesn‘t just make statements concerning the conservation and development of species and biotopes, but also analyses and assesses the functions and services of water bodies, soil, climate, landscape-related recreation, scenery and develops measures for its sustainable development. It is thus already largely compliant with the broad requirements of a green infrastructure as defined by the EU initiative, as it takes many regulating and cultural ecosystem services for humans into consideration.

  • Articles 20 and 21 in the Federal Nature Conservation Act (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz, latest update 2009) regulate the development of a national ecological network (Biotopverbund), covering at least 10% of the territory of Germany. The ecological network is designed to serve the enduring conservation of populations of wild fauna and flora, including their living sites and biotopes and communities, as well as the preservation, restoration and development of functioning ecological interaction relationships. It also has the purpose of improving the coherence of the "Natura 2000" network. The ecological network shall consist of core areas, connecting areas and connecting elements. Surface waters, including their peripheral zones, shoreline zones and riparian meadows can serve as connecting links over large areas. At the regional level, and especially in landscapes shaped by agriculture, the linear and punctate elements needed to link biotopes, especially hedges and field borders and "stepping-stone" biotopes, should be conserved and created (BfN, 2014).
  • The National Biodiversity Strategy (Nationale Strategie zur biologischen Vielfalt, 2007) is the basis for the protection and restoration of biodiversity and the integration of biodiversity and ecosystems into other sectors, such as agriculture, building and infrastructure(BMUB, 2007). In setting priorities for the implementation of Target 2 Action 6a of the EU Biodiversity Strategy, Germany has focused on ecosystems suffering severe deterioration (BMUB, 2015a). The intention is to fully exploit the synergy effects between biodiversity conservation, climate action and adaptation to climate change. Thus, in agreement between the Federation and the Länder, Germany's work towards meeting the EU restoration target focuses on peatland and floodplain ecosystems. Realisation of a biotope network, reforestation and restoration of peatland are important climate mitigation and adaptation measures, in particular for flood management.
  • The Federal Biodiversity Programme (Bundesprogramm Biologische Vielfalt, 2011; see also section 4)) launched in 2011 supports the implementation of the National Strategy with projects that are particularly exemplary and benchmarking. Projects are assigned to four funding priorities: National responsibility species, biodiversity hotspots, ecosystem services, and other measures. Some measures that are considered important are restoration of natural river beds, increasing ecological value of forests, creating more green spaces in the city and connecting ecosystems (BfN, 2016).
  • The Nature Conservation Initiative 2020 (Naturschutz-Offensive 2020, 2015) has the aim of improving and accelerating the implementation of the National Strategy for Biodiversity. Within 10 areas of action, which have been identified as the action fields with the largest deficits, it describes 40 measures that should improve the condition of biodiversity in Germany. Some of the areas directly linked to GI are: to restore natural river beds, to connect nature areas and to increase green infrastructure in the city. Concrete measures to reach these aims are: give room to the rivers to mitigate floods and to restore nature; to make non-managed forest areas part of the national network of natural forest development; to increase wilderness area; to take into account priority areas for nature (e.g. national parks, core and restoration areas) when looking for suitable locations for renewable and conventional energy infrastructure; to interlink better urban development with landscape/green space planning; support municipalities with the development of urban GI (BMUB, 2015b). 
  • The Federal Defragmentation Programme (Bundesprogramm Wiedervernetzung, 2012) was adopted in 2012 to maintain, restore and develop green infrastructure across the national German road network, thereby reconnecting habitat corridors for flora and fauna that have been disconnected. It focuses on the existing road network, networks for 4 different types of networks (dry biotopes, wet biotopes, valuable forest biotopes and the network for silvicolous mammals) that have been disconnected (Hänel and Reck, 2011). The programme is currently financed from budget of the ministry of transport. The implementation of the programme by the various Federal Länder is currently at different stages (BfN, 2014).
  • In order to promote the restoration of rivers and floodplains, the German Government issued the Federal Government Programme “Germany’s Blue Belt” (Bundesprogramm Blaues Band Deutschland, 2017). The programme aims at the development of a nationally important system of interlinked biotopes along the federal waterways and their associated floodplains. The programme focuses on the sections that are no longer needed for cargo shipping (“minor waterways”) with a length of about 2,800 km but also implements “ecological stepping stones” in the major waterways. The programme sets up a framework for action for the next years and decades (BMUB and BMVI, 2015).
  • The Federal Programme “chance.natur” (since 1979, latest update 2015; see also section 4) serves to establish and protect large areas of nature and landscape with national importance. Since 1979, more than 3700 km2 (around 1% of Germany’s total surface area) have been designated as valuable areas for the protection of landscape and biodiversity. Criteria are: area size, naturalness and the level of representation, endangerment, pilot project character (in terms of natural value and management). Measures taken in designated areas are the development of maintenance and development plans, the purchase of land, compensation payments for use restrictions, measures for biotope management such as rewetting and monitoring of results (BfN, n.d.).

    • Germany’s National Natural Heritage scheme: According to the coalition agreements adopted in 2005, 2009 and 2013, about 155,000 ha of federal land with a high value for nature conservation are transferred to Länder, agencies, nature conservation organisations or foundations to be conserved in perpetuity. More than 70 % of the area of the first two transferred tranches includes former military training grounds (BMUB, 2017a).
    • The importance of urban green infrastructure is outlined in “Green in Cities - for a liveable future” (Grünbuch Stadtgrün: “Grün in der Stadt – für eine lebenswerte Zukunft”, 2015). It discusses the multiple functions of urban GI, current challenges and perspectives and recommends action to be taken to improve GI in the German urban areas (BMUB, 2015c). The publication of the Grünbuch was the start of a longer process with which new integrated strategies for urban green were developed and implemented. In a ‘white book process for city green’ (Weißbuchprozess zum Stadtgrün), a wider dialogue was encouraged about the future status of green and open spaces in German cities. The Weißbuch Stadtgrün (2017) contains 10 action areas with concrete measures that the national government will support to strengthen urban green infrastructure. The implementation follows in consultation with Länder, municipalities, associations, civil society, scientific and practical experts and additional actors (BMUB, 2017b).
    • The National Green Infrastructure Concept (Bundeskonzept Grüne Infrastruktur (BKGI), 2017) is a spatially defined integrated concept, which helps to incorporate existing nature conservation and landscape management concepts and models into national planning processes, such as floodplain development, national road planning, defragmentation and expansion of ecological networks. The aim of this national concept, besides the implementation of the EU concept of Green Infrastructure on national level, is to practically define the National Biodiversity Strategy and to support orientation for planning of third parties, especially the national government. The BKGI determines priority areas and tasks for nature conservation and gives instructions for successful implementation on a national level. The BKGI presents a spatial nature conservation concept, which points out areas of national importance for the protection of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Specific concepts that are still in development will be gradually fed into the National GI Concept, such as landscapes of national importance for natural and cultural heritage, the national program Blaues Band and the national action plan conservation areas (BfN, 2017a).
    • The Ministry for Climate Protection, Environment, Agriculture, Conservation and Consumer Protection of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) called for applications of public and private stakeholders to create models for integrated action plans for green infrastructure on a community level that are to be implemented within the European Regional Development Fund time-frame. Action plans can be handed in up to 1 June 2017. Funds of 83 million Euro are made available by EU and federal state resources, as well as from municipalities, associations and private funds (Ministerium für Klimaschutz, Umwelt, Landwirtschaft, Natur- und Verbraucherschutz NRW, n.d).
    • Germany published their Restoration Prioritisation Framework in 2015 (Priorisierungsrahmen zur Wiederherstellung verschlechterter Ökosysteme in Deutschland - BMUB, 2015), as asked under the EU Biodiversity Strategy Target 2 (action 6a). Germany focuses on the restoration of moors and meadows (Moore und Auen), based on the highly degraded conditions of these ecosystems in Germany and their wide range of functions (BMUB 2015a). Several Länder with valuable peat lands or extensively used moors with high restoration potential have developed moor protection concepts or provide appropriate considerations. Most of the goals for moors set in the National Biodiversity Strategy have not been reached yet, because the required measures are substantial. Chance.natur supports measures to restore moors, as well as the “Moor-Futures” initiative (see below). The renaturalisation of meadows is largely taken care of within water management initiatives (retention areas) and the Bundesprogramm Blaues Band, which was mentioned above. Chance.natur and the National Biodiversity Programme further support the restoration of meadows in Germany and the Länder have their own programmes for financing measures. The current state of meadows in Germany was assessed in 2009 and will be updated in 2020 to monitor progress.



  • Germany contains a part of the European Green Belt, with its section running along the former border between East and West Germany. The idea for a Green Belt was born in Germany in 2002 and today the Belt runs through 24 countries. The German Green Belt became part of the national natural heritage and has become a valuable biotope network (BfN, 2013).
  • Lighthouse project “Holsatian Habitat Corridors” as well as the testing and development project “Supra-regional Relinking of ecosystem functions across traffic infrastructure”.

The Holsatian lighthouse project combined, first time in Germany, elaborate fauna passages across a motorway with the creation of a best supporting periphery and a coherent integration of the hinterland by safeguarding and restoration of ecologically functioning habitat corridors. The effects of various measures, from e.g. creating natural woodland corridors, drove roads, heath or roadside grassland to rewetting of bogs and regaining ponds across and along traffic infrastructure are closely examined, looking on the functionality for all biodiversity. That means the equally important population dynamics and ecosystem functions of plants were as well regarded as those of the small fauna (insects, reptiles) or large mammals. With the help of many stakeholders (road and forest administration, naturalists and hunters and even pupils of the local school) successful re-linking of formerly too small populations and recolonization of many species could be achieved. With the experience from the 20 km2 project area the next step has begun to implement green infrastructure in addition to technical infrastructure in an supraregional scale and a rural project area of 200 km2.

  • The State of NRW is developing Green Infrastructure in the Ruhr-area. The multifunctionality of nature and its value is recognized and therefore needs to get priority over grey infrastructure. The basis for the implementation of GI are 5 fields of action: 1) the urban landscape with the Emscher landscape park at the centre, 2) the water in the city with the transformation of the Emscher system as a backbone, 3) green city development with nature-based solutions in cities and neighbourhoods, 4) zero-emission transportation with the regional biking road network, 5) climate mitigation in combination with increased energy efficiency (Regionalverband Ruhr, 2016).
  • The State of Niedersachsen is currently working on a landscape program (Landschaftsplan auf Länderebene). It proposes a concept for green infrastructure on the Länder level, that includes aspects of the national ecological network, areas important for recreation, meaningful cultural landscapes, floodplains and valuable soils in need of protection.
  • The Emscher valley restoration project in the Ruhr area has been a successful and inspiring example of ecological restoration. Redirecting wastewater to treatment plants through a new subsurface sewer system has helped re-naturalise the surface hydrology of the Emscher catchment and its tributaries, converting many former industrial sites to green spaces in the process. The Emscher development has given rise to over one thousand jobs and has provided the focal point for the economic and social renewal of the entire region (Emscher Genossenschaft, n.d.).
  • Leipzig has implemented a series of interventions, which cumulatively comprise its green infrastructure approach. Examples of projects include the creation of green corridors, the “Green Ring”, the “Parthe Floodplain” and investments in developing parks and converting derelict areas into green urban spaces. In the city’s area of Paunsdorf, a “Green Arc” (a chain of green spaces surrounding a large high density housing area) was developed as part of the green infrastructure of the city, and water buffaloes now contribute to a landscape of ponds and swamps which visitors can enjoy.

    • The Integrated LIFE Project Living Lahn (EUR 15.7 million) will contribute to the implementation of the Water Framework Directive in order to achieve a "good ecological status" of surface waters in the catchment area of the Lahn River in the German Länder Hessen and Rhineland-Palatinate (Hessisches Ministerium für Umwelt, Klimaschutz, Landwirtschaft und Verbraucherschutz, 2016).
    • Floodplain restoration in Lenzener Elbtalaue was funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety, the federal state of Brandenburg and the “Trägerverband Lenzen”. The project employs a highly integrated approach by combining nature conservation objectives and flood protection goals. A second dyke relocation project, “Mittlere Elbe”, close to the city of Dessau, is still under construction; it will provide 600 ha of reconnected floodplain (Damm, 2013).
    • MoorFutures in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern recognizes the value of healthy moorlands for storing carbon and water and offering habitats and refuge areas to many species. The Ministry of Agriculture, Environment and Consumer Protection of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern aims to address the deteriorating status of these habitats by shifting to land use that works at higher water levels. Since 2011, MoorFutures is the financial mechanism that supports this transition. In Polder Kieve, 55 ha were re-wetted in 2012 with financing from MoorFutures (MoorFutures, n.d.).
    • The experimental and development project "Network Green Borders – nature without borders between Nordrhein-Westfalen and the Netherlands" (2012-2015) was implemented under the authority of the NABU NRW and financed by the BMUB. The goal of this project was to set an example for cross-border ecosystem networks at the German-Dutch border. In the border area of NRW and the Netherlands there is a lot of potential for the connection of ecosystems, which until now had not been realised, because of i.a. different legal and societal conditions. This project was supposed to test how despite these conditions a cross-border ecosystem network can be realized (Grabski-Kieron et al., 2016).
    • The city of Ludwigsburg participates in the Horizon 2020 project URBAN GreenUP which aims to obtain a tailored methodology to support the co-development of Renaturing Urban Plans focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation and efficient water management, and to assist in the effective implementation of Nature-Based Solutions.



Nature conservation

For the first time, existing nature conservation concepts were summarized in the form of a National Green Infrastructure Concept (see section 1). This strengthens the integration of aspects of nature conservation into other policy fields. At the same time it facilitates nature conservation actors from different subject areas to recognise and make use of synergies within nature conservation.



More than half of the surface area of Germany is used for agriculture. The national agriculture policies follow the framework of the EU common agriculture policy. The multiple services of agriculture in general (production, economic, societal, cultural and environmental services) and in particular the ecosystem services of the more natural landscape features of agricultural land are recognized. On the other hand, agriculture, and in specific intensive agriculture, causes a lot of damage to biodiversity, because it alters and negatively influences the habitat of many animal and plant species.

Many agri-environment-climate measures (including ecological agriculture) can get financed by the Rural Development Program (RDP) (BfN, 2015). These measures improve nature and landscape and thus contribute to green infrastructure. However, there is still a large gap between the available funds and the needs. 

GI is mentioned in the Rural Development Programme (RDP) of several Länder (Rhineland-Palatinate, Thüringen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Schleswig-Holstein). They state that when possible and meaningful, nature-based solutions such as GI will be given priority over pure technical solutions for infrastructural measures (in the case of Sachsen-Anhalt and Schleswig-Holstein, mainly related to flood prevention measures) and see GI as an important means to increase biodiversity and to connect nature areas. Saarland interprets GI purely as connectors between natural areas in their RDP.

With the joint task “Improvement of the agricultural structure and coastal protection” (Gemeinschaftsaufgabe "Verbesserung der Agrarstruktur und des Küstenschutzes”, GAK), the national government and the Länder promote in an integral way the rural areas, agriculture and coastal protection. The GAK is an essential element of the national strategy for the development of rural areas and the most important national funding instrument for a strong and future-oriented forestry and agriculture, coastal protection, and well-functioning rural areas with environmental and resource sustainability as a core component of these areas. Financing possibilities for nature conservation and landscape management have recently been added to the GAK and will soon become available (BMEL, n.d.).



Multifunctionality of forests as a guiding concept is stressed in the Forest Strategy 2020 (Waldstrategie 2020) as well as in the National Biodiversity Strategy. Measures relevant for GI are related to increasing the area of forests and maintaining or increasing the ecological value of forests. This also includes the goal that by the year 2020, the area of forests with natural forest development should be five percent of the total forest area (BMEL, 2016a). The Forest Climate Fund, run jointly by BMEL and BMUB, is part of the programme associated with the Energy and Climate Fund. The measures of the Forest Climate Fund support the view of Germany that sustainable, multifunctional management of forests is important for biodiversity, climate functions and the common good. The intention is to harness possible synergies between climate protection, the preservation of biodiversity and the adaptation of forests to climate change (BMEL, 2016b).


Spatial planning

In 2016, the conference of spatial planing ministers proposed new models and action strategies for spatial planning in Germany (MKRO, 2016). The models and action strategies are committed to the guiding principle of sustainable spatial development, which reconciles social and economic claims on space with ecological functions. For this purpose, connections shall be made between large-scale open spaces for the expansion of the ecological network, flood protection and recreation. Also, contributions to the defragmentation program and the national concept of green infrastructure shall be made. These models are to be taken into account when drawing up land use plans at Landes and regional level. 


Urban development

The National Urban Development Policy (Nationale Stadtentwicklungspolitik) is a common initiative of the Federal government, Länder and Municipalities and translates the Leipzig Charter on Sustainable European Cities to German policy since 2007. The latest update of the National Urban Development Policy (2015) is based on the three pillars of ‘Green urbanism’; energy and materials, water and biodiversity, and urban planning and transport, although the focus is mostly on energy and resource efficiency. Increasing vegetation, especially in densely populated neighbourhoods, is seen as an opportunity to improve quality of life. Not only open spaces should be used for vegetation, but also next to streets, on roofs and walls, and to connect leisure areas. The creation of water retention basins and reduction of sealed soil are seen as important measures for adapting the city to climate change (BMUB, 2015d).

In 2015, the ‘green book’ “Green in Cities - for a liveable future” was published which acknowledges the many functions of nature (health, well-being, climate adaptation and risk reduction, environmental conditions, biodiversity, social, cultural and educational functions, production of food and resources) in different forms and shapes (from natural areas to green roofs, as separate building blocks or connected), hereby fully integrating GI into urban policy.


The German government has issued a new program “Future of city green” (Zukunft Stadtgrün) as part of its urban development assistance program (BMUB, 2017c). The government has made 50 million euro available for this end in the years 2017 and 2018. The urban development assistance program is one of the most important instruments for the financing of sustainable urban development in Germany. Besides the specific city green program within the urban development assistance program, there are also options to finance green infrastructure measures within the existing programs such as ‘Soziale Stadt’ and ‘Stadtumbau’. For the complete program there is 790 million euro available for municipalities and Länder in 2017.

The financial support for municipalities within the new program are intended to promote urban green infrastructure. This is to be done through the installation, refurbishment or improvement and connecting publicly accessible green and open spaces within the framework of the structural preservation and development of neighbourhoods. In this way, liveable and healthy cities shall be developed, which leads to better living conditions, increased participation, improved city climate and environmental justice by a fair distribution of high quality city green, as well as preservation of biodiversity and enhanced nature experience.



As mentioned above for the existing road network, the Defragmentation Programme was developed. For the construction of new roads, the verification of the necessity of green bridges or underpasses in the planning process is part of the state of the art and accepted by the road administration. One important step forward ist the current review of the code of practice for over- and underpasses (Merkblatt für Querungshilfen, MAQ). Results from research projects of both ministries are used to improve the planning process itself, the design of under- or overpasses for different habitat types and species as well as the integration of this technical features in the surrounding landscape and to the Hinterland connection. With both steps the Defragmentation Programme and the revision of the code of practice the combination of save road planning and the maintenance as well as the recreation of habitat networks to develop Green Infrastructure is clearly improved (Natur und Lanschaft 12, 2013; Reck et al,. 2017).


Energy infrastructure

The BMUB recognises that the Energiewende must be shaped with care for nature and biodiversity. This challenge is mainly related to the changing land use which accompanies the cultivation of biomass, the production of woody biomass, building of wind turbines and solar systems and the necessary new infrastructure (changes to the power grid). The BMUB sees the need to investigate the impacts of different technologies on nature, which can inform the shaping of the energy system. Possible measures are: using waste streams instead of energy crops for biomass energy and careful choice of locations for wind parks. An independent ‘competence centre’ for nature conservation and Energiewende was established in 2016. This centre collects and spreads information on how nature protection issues can be integrated in decision processes of the Energiewende (Bundesregierung, 2016).


Water management, flood protection and disaster risk reduction

Within water management, flood protection and disaster risk reduction, GI takes an important role, which has already been recognized for a long time. After the devastating flood events in 2013, the Federal Government and the Laender have developed the National Flood Protection Programme (Nationales Hochwasserschutzprogramm, 2014), which was adopted in 2014 by the Conference of Environment Ministers. The programme includes priority, supra-regional effective flood protection measures in three categories: controlled flood retention, dike relocations and elimination of weak points. The plans foresee 1.180 million cubic meters of controlled retention volume and more than 20.000 ha of active floodplains to be recovered by dike relocations. The programme deliberately emphasizes the use of synergies with river development, adaptation to climate change and nature conservation and therefore also promotes floodplain development. Currently 90% of the floodplains and 79% of the rivers in Germany are structurally distinctly or completely modified (LAWA 2002; BMU and BfN, 2009) and in case of large flood events only one third of the former floodplains can be flooded. In many sections, particularly on the large rivers, the loss of floodplains extends to 80% or more than 90% (Brunotte et al., 2009). In 2015 only 8% of the surface water showed a good or very good ecological status (BMU and UBA, 2016).

Within water management, it is acknowledged that measures should be designed to address several objectives, such as water resources management and nature conservation. Recovered, near-natural floodplains are accompanied by manifold ecosystem services, such as flood protection, climate change mitigation, reduction of nutrients (N, P) or recreation.

Water management, flood protection and disaster risk reduction therefore significantly contribute to GI.



So far the term green infrastructure is hardly used within financing of nature conservation measures. Accordingly, no separate studies or numbers exist of expended funds for green infrastructure.

Besides EU funding (e.g. from European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD)  or LIFE), there are opportunities for funding from the federal government, Länder and municipalities. In addition, different forms of private funding are being applied to GI projects. The following focuses on financing from the national government and the EU.

To inform the environmental minister conference (UMK), the BMUB has drawn up a report in May 2017 about nature conservation financing in Germany by EU funds, programs and foundations. Table 1 comes from this report and is the result of a recent query among the Bundesländer, planned budgets or pledges at the federal level and on LIFE funding. It only concerns the from the UMK requested financial values, so it does not give a complete overview of all spendings on nature conservation in Germany. Not included are for example the personnel costs of the nature conservation administrations and the spendings of environmental associations, private foundations and the private sector. Also it needs to be noted that only direct nature conservation measures are included in this table.


Table 1. Estimation of available nature conservation funding for targeted conservation measures in Germany. Source: written report of the BMUB of 4 May 2017 for the 59th Amtschefkonferenz and the 88th Umweltministerkonferenz on 3-5 May 2017 in Bad Saarow on the TOP 21 (EU nature conservation financing)

On the use of EU funds (section A in table 1): The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD) is, despite increasing bureaucratic and acceptance problems, still the most important EU fund for nature conservation in Germany, while the other EU funds only play a marginal role or no role at all. One of the findings from the Länder query was, that within the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) funding areas that are explicitely defined for nature conservation, biodiversity and green infrastructure, measures are being financed that do not or barely aim for biodiversity or in fact are completely counterproductive (for example flood protection walls and dikes or road construction in green areas). This shows that a clearer definition of what may be promoted as nature conservation or green infrastructure is needed.

On Programmes (section B in table 1): The Federal programme “chance.natur” (see chapter 1) has the purpose of establishing and securing elements of nature and the landscape that are of conservation importance and are nationally representative. Over €450 million in Federal funding has been made available for the purpose. An annual 14 million Euro in federal funding is available for the programme. The federal government generally funds up to 75% of the project costs, the project initiator pays at least 10%, the rest of the amount is funded by the corresponding Bundesland, which gives a total funding amount of 18.7 million Euro a year.

The Federal Environment Ministry annually made 15 million Euro available for the Federal Biodiversity Programme (see chapter 1) up to 2015. This funding was increased to 20 million Euro in 2017. Adding in the 25% own/third-party contribution gives a total amount of €26.7 million a year.

From the agriculture ministry and the Länder, funds for nature conservation are newly made available for the Joint Task for the Improvement of agricultural structure and coastal protection (GAK). Fourteen Länder have used this funding instrument in the first year were conservation measures were eligible in the amount of approximately €25 million for 2017 (Federal and Länder funding).

Nature conservation measures within agriculture (e.g. Agri-environment-climate measures, AECMs) are mainly financed by the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and need national co-financing. The BMUB’s position is that the GAP after 2020 should only pay farmers for their efforts with value for the society, like the environment. Despite the efforts of agricultural fund rural development programmes, the conservation status of most farmed habitats and associated species in the agricultural countryside still remains poor and in some cases has even deteriorated in recent years. The funding for AECMs has effectively been cut in the new funding period (BfN, 2015). Furthermore, nature conservation measures are competing with other, partially even (potentially) counterproductive measures (e.g. land consolidation, stable and road construction). For example, in the years 2009 until 2013, only 31% of the spendings was for measures with direct relevance for biodiversity. The extent of the area thus achieved amounted to only 13% of the total area under agri-environmental measures (BfN, 2017b).

The BfN therefore deems additional funding required to target promotion and conservation of biodiversity in the cultivated landscape, primarily directed at expanding and enhancing programmes that have a demonstrable positive impact. In addition, the BfN sees the need to develop an incentive system to better reward nature conservation efforts in agriculture (BfN, 2015; 2017b). A number of German Länder now offer success-based funding: rather than funding specific farming practices, the measures concerned reward the presence of specific rare or threatened species. Nature administrations of regional/Länder and the federal level and German nature NGOs would like to see a new dedicated financing programme for nature conservation. This should i.a. enable the implementation of the EU nature directives.

The Federal initiative ‘Rural Development’ has 55 million euro available from 2017 for support of exemplary projects, competitions, research activities and communication measures that are related to attractive and healthy rural areas. It is necessary to secure coherence with GI and nature goals.

Compared to farmers, private forest owners up to now do not have many suitable options for concrete long-lasting nature conservation measures within existing EU-funding schemes. One goal of the National Biodiversity Strategy is to provide means to include up to 10 percent of the area of privately managed forest in a long-term nature protection programme. The Forest Climate Fund (joint responsibility of the Federal Ministries of Agriculture (BMEL) and Environment (BMUB)) supports measures in the following priority areas: adaptation of forests to climate change, safeguarding of carbon storage and increasing the CO2 sequestration of forests, increasing of storage in wood products and reduction/substitution of CO2 via wood products, research and monitoring, information and communication.

The National Climate Initiative can potentially also be used for funding of GI with high potential for climate mitigation and adaptation, e.g. GI in cities.

An interesting innovative financing instrument in Germany is MoorFutures: voluntary investment in CO2 certificates to improve greenhouse gas balance of the investor (e.g. compensation of private energy use, travel, production processes, total GHG emissions of a company). Money is used for implementing and maintaining moorland projects in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg and Schleswig-Holstein (MoorFutures, n.d.).

Financial gaps: For the implementation of EU nature conservation goals and guidelines, substantial funds are required. A recent estimation of the national working group on nature conservation (Länderarbeitsgemeinschaft Naturschutz, LANA) from September 2016 shows that the financial requirements for just the implementation of the EU nature conservation guidelines in Germany would be around 1,4 billion euro per year (excluding the marine environment). This estimation includes the requirements for Natura 2000, measures outside the protected area network, species conservation, etc. In addition, all relevant costs categories are included: one time and regular costs, restoration and management costs, acquisition, planning, personnel, monitoring and public relations.

When comparing this financial estimation for the implementation of the EU nature conservation guidelines (1,4 billion euro) with the value of nature conservation financing as determined in the BMUB report (542 million) the following must be noted: a comparison is in principle, with restrictions, possible, because in both cases the information refers to the measures or expenditure directly necessary for achieving nature conservation objectives (no expenditures that indirectly  relate with biodiversity/nature objectives). Still, the cost estimate does not include all nature conservation tasks (such as related to the marine environment, invasive species, not-Natura 2000 relevant habitats). On the other hand, a few cost categories are missing from the types of financing in the BMUB report, that are included in the requirement estimation (such as personnel, planning, public relations etc. that together make up approximately 240 million euros). Despite these differences in detail, however, the figures indicate that there is a considerable financing gap to achieve nature conservation goals.



5.1  Best practice/points of excellence

Germany has many policies related to improving biodiversity, ecosystem services and the connection of habitats. GI is integrated into several policy areas, mainly flood protection, urban policy and to a lesser degree into agriculture. There are many pilots and good practices in Germany. The next step would be to accelerate implementation and to bring Green Infrastructure solutions to a larger scale.


5.2  Challenges/gaps/needs

Agriculture is an important driver for the loss of ecosystem services and covers a large part of Germany’s surface area. It is therefore important that GI is fully integrated into agricultural schemes (Trinomics et al., 2016). Measures so far have not sufficiently improved ecosystem conditions (in fact some have even worsened). Instead of framing nature conservation measures as a ‘sacrifice’ of productive area which needs compensation, maintenance of ecosystem services (such as protection of soil and pollination) should be seen as useful for agriculture (and other functions). More legislation for soil conservation by use of GI can be considered.


5.3  Opportunities

In German policy, often only one aspect of GI is highlighted, such as biodiversity, water retention or climate mitigation or adaptation. Furthermore, GI as seen as a compensation measure to mitigate impacts of grey infrastructure: to compensate lost nature area or biodiversity or to connect habitats that were fragmented by infrastructure. To recognise the whole spectrum of benefits of GI within the different policy fields would help to prioritise GI over other measures. Especially highlighting Green Infrastructure’s economic and monetary benefits will encourage further uptake of Green Infrastructure (Trinomics et al., 2016). Then GI can be considered as a viable alternative for grey infrastructure (especially on the long-term), which at the same time has many additional benefits.


5.4  Benefits

There have not been any monitoring programmes carried out of the impacts of GI initiatives (or related programmes).



  • Within the scope of the National Green Infrastructure Concept (BKGI), existing technical concepts of nature conservation at the federal level were processed in an integral way, such as protected areas, flood plain development, the national ecological network and defragmentation. The resulting important GIS data on green infrastructure in Germany were made available for third parties. Data and information on natural resources was already available on different levels, but it was difficult to combine data from different sources for different actors. With the BKGI the data is arranged in a more efficient way and can be used more easily by users for various tasks.
  • The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation funded extensive research on habitat corridors in Germany from 2012-2020, providing the scientific basis for the Federal Defragmentation Programme. Four indicative maps were compiled: the dry biotope habitat network, the wet biotope habitat network, the habitat network of valuable forest biotopes and the corridor system for larger mammals. Combined, these four maps represent the network of habitat corridors in Germany.
  • Germany is currently in the process of assessing national ecosystem services, covering several ecosystems ranging from forest to coastal areas, urban areas, grassland, etc., across the whole country from lowland to mountain areas. Link to the work on "Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services": MAES-related developments in Germany.
  • The research and implementation project WiNat investigated how the ‘naturalness’ of national natural heritage sites and Natural Forests Reserves can be measured and how the development towards naturalness can be shaped efficiently.
  • Leipzig is one of the cities participating in the EnRoute project (Enhancing Resilience Of Urban Ecosystems through Green Infrastructure) by MAES, which runs from 2017 until 2018. The project aims to introduce the MAES approach into the local policy arena, connecting the governance levels horizontally and vertically, with a view to contribute to the further deployment of GI in cities and in urban contexts. In the “city labs”, the URBAN-MAES framework will be implemented using local data and involving in the process the local stakeholders and focusing on specific issues (Maes et al. 2017).



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