Land use - State and impacts (Germany)
Structure of land use
The surface area of Germany in 2008 was 35 711 135 ha, including the jointly administered German-Luxembourg condominium.
In 2008, agriculture accounted for 52.5 % of the surface area – 18 764 594 ha, including moorland and heathland areas and has decreased slightly since 2004. The decrease in the amount of land available for agriculture was in the past a continuous process, in particular in the areas surrounding major conurbations, primarily the result of a continuing increase in the area used for settlement and traffic.
At 30.1 % (10 734 892 ha), the forested area in 2008 accounted for 0.3 percentage points more of the surface area than in 2004. Its growth was mainly at the expense of so called “other areas” e. g. former military training grounds. Forested areas, as well as water, moorland and heathland ones, have special ecological importance for groundwater recharge, air filtering, protection against erosion. They also serve predominantly as a venue for the leisure needs of people.
The settlement and traffic area is the most dynamic of land-use growth areas, growing by 151 650 ha (0.4 percentage points) by end 2008 compared with end 2004. At 4 713 725 ha, it accounted for 13.2 % of the total surface area.
In 2008, the water area represented 2.4% (848 150 ha) of the surface area of Germany. This has grown by 20 247 ha by end 2008 compared with end 2004 on account of the extraction of raw materials such as gravel, sand or lignite with subsequent flooding of the extraction sites, as a result of which a post-mining landscape with new lakes is created.
Settlement and traffic area
The constantly increasing use of land for settlement and traffic purposes removes large areas from natural cycles and fragments the habitats of larger species. The Länder Working Group for Soil Conservation (LABO) estimates a sealed area of about 46 % of the settlement and traffic area, that is to say around 6 % of the federal territory.
The settlement and traffic area in Germany grew by 104 ha/day from 2005 to 2008. This was slower than from 2004 to 2007, when growth was running at 113 ha/day. This growth was achieved largely at the expense of areas used for agricultural purposes.
The decline is mainly due to a drop in investment in the construction sector caused by economic conditions. A real reversal in the trend cannot therefore be guaranteed – an increase may be expected in the event of economic recovery. In its national sustainability strategy, Germany has set itself the target of achieving a reduction to 30 ha/day in the increase in the take-up of land by 2020. A complete reorientation of settlement and traffic policy at the level of the Federal Government, the Länder and municipalities will be required to meet this target.