Development perspectives of large-scale protected areas

Our current research focusses on development perspectives of large-scale protected areas with special focus on biosphere reserves and nature parks in a German and European context.

Nature parks and the task of sustainable regional development

The comprehensive reform of the Federal Act for the Protection of Nature (Bundesnaturschutzgesetz) saw the introduction of the statutory obligation for German nature parks to pursue sustainable regional development (§27). Since the reform, 18 years have passed, allowing us to look back at how the mandate has been interpreted and implemented. In retrospect, we can observe that the regional development pursued was primarily a ‘green regional development', which emerged in response to (at times conflicting) ecological, economic and social needs and interests. Over time, regional development was expanded to include relevant regional actors such as nature parks, which draw upon years or (at times) even decades of hands-on ‘on the ground’ experience, in comparison to new(er) initatives. Looking back at the development over time, we can detect shifts in the priorities and prioritisation of tasks and mandates, as well as with regard to the actors included in ‘sustainable regional development’, and with regard to issues of governance.

But where exactly do we stand currently with regard to the ongoing alignment, conceptualisation and implementation of ‘sustainable regional development’? We currently pursue this question in a research project undertaken jointly with the German Association of Nature Parks (Verband Deutscher Naturparke).

Biosphere Reserves as models for sustainable development

In recent years, the concept of 'sustainability' became increasingly important and will - against the backdrop of an increasingly urgent need for action - remain a central topic in the future. In keeping with the motto "Think globally, act locally", especially regional and local actors are considered responsible for acting in the interest of sustainable development. The Lima Action Plan, which was adopted in 2016, contains concrete recommendations and possible measures for local authorities to implement the principles of sustainable development. In the action plan, biosphere reserves are assigned the task of supporting municipalities in their efforts and thus establishing themselves as models for sustainable (municipal) development.

We currently research perspectives of sustainable (municipal) development within biosphere reserves. In this context we pursue the question of how a cooperation between biosphere reserves and municipalities for the benefit of an ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable municipal development can be organised.

On 07 July 2022, M.A. Julia Dittel was awarded the Richard van Dülmen Prize (first prize) in Cultural Studies at Saarland University for her Master's thesis on "Strategies and perspectives for sustainable municipal development: The Palatinate Forest Biosphere Reserve and its municipalities on the way to greater sustainability?".


Responsible team members: Jun.-Prof. Dr. Florian Weber und Julia Dittel