Biotope Types 2013


The word biotope derives from the Greek words bíos (life) and tópos (space). A biotope is a habitat in which certain plants and animals form a long-term association. Its composition depends primarily on the site conditions necessary for the existence and the flourishing of certain organisms. By virtue of its typical site and structural features, each biotope has its own potential, including its characteristic array of species. While the term “biotope” always refers to a concrete place, the term “biotope type” refers to biotopes within a definitive natural area which have the same characteristics.

Over the past three to four decades, the conditions of life for plants and animals have continued to deteriorate. The most important causes are the destruction and dismemberment of natural habitats by construction and impermeable coverage of the soil, as well as changes in the biotopes, e.g. due to fertiliser and pollutant input, extensive drops in the groundwater, and intensive agricultural and recreational use. While previously, only those species were affected which were by nature rare and strongly specialised in their needs, we today increasingly see a deterioration process which endangers the stock even of those species which were still very common during the 1950s.

Since there is a very complex relationship between particular plants and animals in nature, this development must be considered extremely dangerous. Complex food chains and communities of species have taken shape in a development process which has lasted for millennia, so that the loss of a single plant species means, on average, the loss of the basic conditions of life of between 10 and 20 species of animals. In extreme cases, several hundred species may be affected.

This development is demonstrated by an analysis of the Red Lists of endangered plant and animal species in Berlin. The Red Lists include 7,087 species, of which 13% are considered extinct or lost, and 31% as endangered. The share of Red List species in the overall species stock is 44%, or almost half of all wild plant and animal species. Broken down by species groups, the percentage of endangered species reaches values of around 40% among most invertebrates; for plants, fungi, and vertebrates, it is often considerably higher. (For detailed accounts and information, see Species Protection, only in German).

An assessment with reference to the Red List of Endangered Biotope Types in Germany (Riecken et al. 2006) yields a harldy less alarming picture for the biotope areas in Berlin. Approx. 10% of the area of Berlin contains biotopes which are endangered nation-wide. Berlin has a special responsibility for the protection and preservation of these biotopes.

Tab. 1: Endangered status, Berlin biotope types, from the Red List of Endangered Biotope Types in Germany

Tab. 1: Endangered status, Berlin biotope types, from the Red List of Endangered Biotope Types in Germany

Biotope Protection as a Supplement to the Certification of Protected Areas

Even the certification of protected areas has been unable to arrest this development.

For in spite of the supposedly larger number of nature and landscape protection areas, as well as other protected areas, valuable areas are still being lost.

An important instrument for the protection of the rarest and most strongly endangered biotopes, mostly involving near-natural habitats, is direct legal biotope protection.
In Berlin, 19 habitats particularly worthy of protection have been nominated as legally protected biotopes. The legal protection status requires no formal procedure, as in the case of the certification of protected areas. Legal protection is designed to preserve the protected biotopes completely and intact, and protect them from adverse changes. All actions and measures which could cause considerable or permanent damage are strictly forbidden and punishable by law. Exceptions apply only for overriding reasons of public interest, or if compensation is provided elsewhere in the form of the creation of similar biotopes. The certification requires examination and a decision by the locally responsible conservation authority of the boroughs.

See here for a detailed depiction of the legally protected biotopes in Berlin.

The Berlin Conservation Law §29-32 moreover provides special regulations for the protection of shore cane brakes.

The European Community has also recognised how necessary the direct legal protection of certain biotopes is. Many biotopes which are rare and endangered Europe-wide are placed under protected status in the context of the programme NATURA 2000 as habitat types as specified by the Habitats Directive. Some of these rare and endangered biotopes are also found in Berlin.

The protection and the sustainable use of the municipal nature and landscape can only be successful with adequate knowledge of the conditions. A serious and up-to-date stock-taking is therefore indispensable if urban development plans are to be connected to nature and the landscape in accordance with the principle of sustainability. Thus, knowledge about the composition and spatial distribution of the culturally shaped near-natural biotopes in Berlin is an essential basis for urban and regional planning, for landscape planning, and for the conservation-appropriate development of spatial utilisation, such as forestry.

Biotope mapping

Biotope mapping was initiated some 30 years ago in several German states. Its goal is to describe the composition of the landscape on the basis of delimitable biotope types.

The methods used can be assigned to any of three categories (Sukopp & Wittig, 1993). Selective mapping covers only protected biotopes, or those worthy of protection. It requires an assessment framework which is already applied during the mapping process. With representative mapping, typical areas of all relevant biotope types or biotope type complexes are examined, and the results are then transferred to the other areas of the same biotope structure. With area-wide mapping, all biotope types of an examination area are covered, and delimited sharply from one another.

Berlin, Munich and Augsburg were amoung the first cities to carry out urban ecological investigations. In Berlin, the Species Protection Programme working group described the biotope type complexes in West Berlin by evaluation of extensive ecological investigations of the municipal area. This representative mapping project was the basis for West Berlin’s Landscape and Species Protection Programme in 1984, the first landscape and species protection programme for any municipal area in West Germany.

In 1986, a map of urban ecological spatial units in West Berlin was also published in the Environmental Atlas.

Biotope Type Mapping in Berlin

In order to create a current and full-coverage database, the Berlin Full-Coverage Biotope Type Mapping project was initiated in 2003 by the State Comissioner for Conservation and Landscape Management and the State Forestry Office.

The biotope type mapping system documents the current distribution and condition of the particularly valuable biotopes, and is thus an important basis for the prioritisation of conservation in the state of Berlin.

The data of the Biotope Type Map, which is now available as a full-coverage instrument, can be used not only for conservation tasks, but also for urban and regional planning, environmental analyses, environmental impact assessments, mandatory reports and forest development planning. In addition to other environmental data, the biotope type data are also to be used in a digital procedure for the strategic environmental assessment (SEA).