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The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

The Green Belt as a European Ecological Network strengths and gaps

Uwe Riecken, Peter Finck

Uwe Riecken, Peter Finck THE GERMAN GREEN BELT AS BACKBONE OF THE NATIONAL ECOLOGICAL NETWORK ABSTRACT THE GERMAN GREEN BELT AS BACKBONE OF THE NATIONAL ECOLOGICAL NETWORK Uwe Riecken, Peter Finck German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation Department for Habitat Protection and Landscape Ecology Konstantinstr. 110, DE-53179 Bonn, Germany Uwe.Riecken@BfN.de, Peter.Finck@BfN.de Since 2002 there is a legal obligation in Germany to implement a national ecological network on at least 10 % of the national territory. Already in 2001 a working group consisting of experts from the German Federal States (Bundesländer) and the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation started to develop criteria to identify the core areas and corridors of this network. In three scientific studies these criteria have been applied to identify these components based on available field data covering the entire German territory. The area of the German Green Belt had been mapped during 2001 and 2002. Based on these results it can clearly be shown that the Green Belt fulfills the defined criteria for being a ‘site of national importance for the ecological network’ and that in some parts it is the only remaining natural structure in the countryside. Therefore the German Green Belt is an important backbone of the national ecological network. 1 INTRODUCTION Since 2002 there is a legal obligation in Germany to implement an ecological network on at least 10 % of the national territory (Article 20 of the National Nature Conservation Act of 2009). Article 21 states that the objectives of this network are the general protection of all indigenous species and their habitats as well as the conservation of ecological interactions and exchange processes in the landscape. It shall also contribute to the coherence of the Natura 2000 network in Germany. Furthermore the components of this network have to be legally protected. Already in 2001 a working group consisting of experts from the German Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) and the respective institutions of the German Federal States (Bundesländer) was implemented to develop common criteria for the identification of components of a national ecological network and to design guidelines for the implementation of this network [1]. Main criteria for the identification of ‘sites of national importance for the ecological network’ are the quality of areas (inter alia: size), the natural characteristics, the integrity of consisting habitat complexes, the degree of fragmentation as well as the occurrence of target species [2, 3]. The German Green Belt is considered to be a major component of the national ecological network. But can this hypothesis be verified or is it just wishful thinking by nature conservationists involved and engaged in the protection of the Green Belt? In the first part of this paper a brief overview will be given on existing data on the national ecological network as well as the implementation of the legal obligations resulting from the German nature conservation law. In the second part the possible function of the Green Belt as part of the German national ecological network will be analyzed using available information and the common criteria developed for the implementation of the national ecological network. 22

Uwe Riecken, Peter Finck THE GERMAN GREEN BELT AS BACKBONE OF THE NATIONAL ECOLOGICAL NETWORK 2 RESULTS 2.1 National Implementation of an ecological network Based on the criteria mentioned above core areas of national relevance have been identified by Fuchs et al. in 2007 [4]. Main results of this study were maps on the core areas of a national ecological network of open landscape habitats, forest habitats and rivers. In total 21,321 km 2 amounting for 6.2 % of the total national territory can be considered ecological network areas of national relevance (Fig. 1). This study also offers an overview on areas with a deficit of core areas on a national scale. Figure 1: Core areas with national relevance for an ecological network in Germany (Status: July 2010 [5, modified] Additionally search areas for ecological corridors for wet and dry open landscape habitats as well as forest habitats have been determined by means of a GIS based method (HABITAT-NET) [6, 7]. Search areas for ecological corridors were identified by a modified least distance method using all suitable mapped biotopes and avoiding urbanized areas. This method allows for a cartographical presentation of significant spatial-functional relations on a landscape scale. Although these search areas cannot be used for a precise planning of 23

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