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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Are natural disturbances represented in strictly protected areas in Germany?

Brackhane, Sebastian; Reif, Albert; Zin, Ewa; Schmitt, Christine B.


Natural disturbances are largely suppressed in Central European landscapes due to economic and human safety concerns. European goals to increase the extent of secondary wilderness areas have the potential to support the restoration of threatened habitats associated with natural disturbances. Germany is among the Central European countries with the most advanced wilderness goals. This study aimed to investigate whether habitat types shaped by natural disturbances are mostly red-listed as threatened and require special consideration within systematic conservation planning (SCP). First, we reviewed literature and the German Red List of Threatened Habitat Types to identify the conservation status of habitat types associated with three natural abiotic disturbance types in Germany: floods, forest fires and landslides. Second, we mapped the potential area coverage of these disturbance types and identified gaps in the current network of strictly protected areas (PA) to inform SCP. Fifty-two per cent of the habitat types associated with the three disturbance types floods, forest fires and landslides were listed as & ldquo;critically endangered & rdquo; (n = 1) or & ldquo;endangered to critically endangered & rdquo; (n = 9). The potential area for river dynamics accounted for 4.3% of German terrestrial territory, areas potentially subject to forest fires accounted for 0.9% and areas with a very high susceptibility to landslides for 1.1%. Areas potentially subject to forest fires (0.15% strict PA coverage) and river dynamics (0.81%) were underrepresented in German National Parks and the core zones of Biosphere Reserve, whereas strict PA coverage of areas with a very high susceptibility to landslides was higher (6.8%). European and German wilderness goals can support the restoration of threatened habitat types associated with natural disturbances if spatial information on those areas is integrated into SCP concepts. Yet, sophisticated management regimes will be required to resolve conflicts between wilderness areas subject to natural disturbances and the surrounding cultural landscape and infrastructure.(c) 2020 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (


Flood; Forest fire; Landslide; Natural disturbance; Systematic conservation planning; Wilderness

Published in

Global Ecology and Conservation
2021, Volume: 26, article number: e01436
Publisher: ELSEVIER

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