Case study 4: EUROPE: Berlin, Germany

Urban greenspaces and protected nature areas in Berlin

Berlin, the capital of Germany, is home to 3.7 million inhabitants (2017) and the largest city of the country. The city area encompasses more than 890 km2 of which nearly 44 percent are green and blue spaces. These areas are urban forests, historical and newly developed parks, nature conservation areas, allotment gardens, urban brownfield sites, agricultural areas, and lakes and rivers. Urban greenspaces defined as public greenspaces and forest areas cover more than 30 percent of the city area including parks (>10 ha of size), private yards, cemeteries, allotments, recreational areas, sports grounds, and street green (Kabisch and Haase 2014). Among Berlin’s more than 100 parks are the historically developed ‘Volksparks’ but also newly developed greenspaces on former brownfield sites. The transformation of the former city airport Berlin-Tempelhof into a public greenspace of around 300 ha is one example where changing land use has created greenspace. Further, Berlin’s diverse landscapes and habitats include relicts of pristine landscapes, historical cultural landscape, and typical urban habitats such as brownfield sites, urban parks, and greenspaces. The diversity of landscape structures and habitats translates into a rich biodiversity of the city with more than 20,000 different species.

Figure 70.9 shows the diversity' of Berlin’s urban greenspaces, urban forests, and several protected natural areas. The protected natural areas are dedicated with a particular protection status. Different categories include nature protection areas, landscape protection areas, natural monument sites, and protected parts of the landscapes including nature parks (Berlin Senate Department of the Environment Transport and Climate Protection 2018a, 2018b). Special areas include those that relate to the European Network NATURA 2000. In Berlin, these are Flora-Fauna-Habitat areas (FFH in Figure 70.9) and the Special Protected Areas for bird protection.

NATURA 2000 sites in Berlin belong to the European network of protected areas. Such sites are dedicated as protected areas to preserve characteristic landscapes and species in the long term and to maintain biological diversity in Europe. Responsibilities are with the respective EU member states and in Germany, with the Federal States. The city of Berlin has 15 NATURA 2000 areas with an area of 6300 ha (7 percent of city area).

Distribution of protected areas and urban green areas (above) and distribution of urban fabric in Berlin (below)

Figure 70.9 Distribution of protected areas and urban green areas (above) and distribution of urban fabric in Berlin (below)

To sustain these different areas in quantity and quality, particular planning and policy measures are undertaken coordinated by Berlin's Senate Department of Environment, Transport and Climate Protection. The organization of maintenance and further development is set out in several plans and strategies.

Nature protection areas

Today, Berlin comprises 44 nature protection areas with an area of 2668 ha (around 3 percent of city area). Nature protection areas are areas with a particular need for protection. They are declared as nature protection areas to conserve scarce and endangered biotopes of a natural space. Development actions with a potential harmful effect are not allowed.

Landscape protection areas

Landscape protection areas are extensive areas that cover more than 14 percent of Berlin's city area. They are considered as areas to preserve a functioning ecosystem because of a specific appearance of the landscape or for recreational purposes of city residents.

Natural monuments

A total of 600 natural monuments can be found in Berlin. These are single trees or erratic blocks which received a protection status because of their natural historic background, particular natural beauty, or rarity. Often, they are an important species habitat. The aim is to protect these sites in the long term.

Smaller areas with value for nature protection

These areas include hedges or tree lines which are important for structuring the landscape or ecosystem services provision. There are 51 such sites in the city area.

Nature conservation and greenspace planning in Berlin

Formal landscape planning in Berlin is based on Berlin's Landscape Program/Species Conservation Program (Kabisch 2015; Thierfelder and Kabisch 2016). In combination with Berlin’s Land Use Plan, the Landscape Program/Species Conservation Program represents the formal base for the open space planning in Berlin and has been implemented extensively since 1994 throughout the entire city (Berlin Senate Department of the Environment and Transport and Climate Protection 2018a, 2018b). Nearly 80 percent of the initially planned greening projects as part of the open space system from the 1990s were successfully implemented. In addition, the Landscape Program/Species Conservation program contains all measures to realize the aims and principles of nature conservation and management in Berlin. It includes the analysis and assessment of condition of the natural areas and landscapes and related development aims. They are formal instruments of the overall planning of the city aiming at integrative and anticipatory environmental protection.

In addition to the important aims of nature conservation, Berlin’s urban planning departments aim at improving the greenspace and biodiversity of the city as they are considered as important ways for sustainable urban development and social equality. Accordingly, since 2012, the city has developed three informal strategies in an integrated way to complement existing formal policies for the enhancement of urban greenspace, the protection and improvement of biodiversity, and adaptation to the impacts of climate change — all with the major goal of a sustainable urban development (Thierfelder and Kabisch 2016). The three policies are:

  • • 'The Urban Development Plan Climate’ (Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, 2011) which addresses urban planning aspects of climate changes in Berlin by focusing on the bioclimate within residential spaces, green and open spaces, water quality, heavy rainfall events and climate mitigation;
  • • 'Berlin’s Biodiversity Strategy’ (Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment 2012b) aiming at building a habitat network in urban areas; and
  • • 'The Urban Landscape Strategy’ (Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, 2012a) which builds on existing strengths of urban green and blue space and attempts to develop them further.

Although Berlin is home to more than 20,000 species, biodiversity loss is a challenge for nature conservation in Berlin. The Biodiversity Strategy’ was implemented in 2013 and combines traditional instruments of landscape planning and nature conservation with new strategic elements of land use and stakeholder participation (Senate Department for Urban Development and the Environment, 2012b). The strategy has a wide range of detailed city-wide strategic goals to act against biodiversity loss, protect and improve habitat conditions for urban biodiversity, and is based on the ecosystem service framework. Urban ecosystems are highlighted as important for sustaining human well-being and quality of life while providing a habitat and living environment for various species and human populations.

Availability of urban greenspaces and nature protection sites

Urban greenspaces, forest areas, and nature protection sites are distributed over the whole city area of Berlin (Figure 70.9). Protection sites and urban forests are situated at the outer parts of the city while many parks, allotment gardens, and other public greenspaces are located more in the inner-city area. The greatest proportion of the total green area within Berlin, including both protected areas and public greenspaces, is located near the city’s southeastern boundary. By contrast, dense residential inner-city districts have much smaller portions of urban greenspace, despite the high population densities, particularly immediately south of the city center (Kabisch and Haase 2014).

For Berlin’s residents there are a number of opportunities for engaging in urban greenspace planning and biodiversity conservation. In the case of the development of new parks — such as Tempelhof — residents are encouraged to participate in public workshops, and take part in surveys and focus group discussions. For biodiversity conservation, there are a number of ways of actively supporting improvement of habitat conditions or receiving information about biodiversity and/or informing others. Every year, the city of Berlin organizes the 'Long night for city nature’ which includes many events, such as excursions and discussions, that inform residents about biodiversity in Berlin. To improve environmental education, there are ways to support kindergartens and schools to enhance their greenspaces and to educate children in environmental and biodiversity aspects. The urban tree campaign in Berlin also shows one way in which locals can engage with their natural environment. Urban residents make donations towards the cost of planting and maintaining a new tree in the city.

To conclude, Berlin provides a diverse set of urban greenspaces and protected areas. Nature conservation and biodiversity conservation are major goals of the urban planning agenda in the city and will gain even more importance in the future as Berlin is challenged by a significantly rising population number with an increasing demand for residential space which will conflict with the protection of the city's open spaces.

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