Species protection

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Almost a third of all amphibian species are threatened with extinction

Species protection includes the protection and care of certain wild species by humans, either on the basis of ethical or aesthetic principles, or on the basis of ecologically based knowledge. This is how species protection differs from animal protection , in which people want to protect the individual animal for its own sake. In contrast, the subject of species protection is wild populations of the target species to be protected. If this population is viable, death and loss of individuals are tolerable. In principle, species protection refers exclusively to wild animal or plant species. There are similar efforts in agriculture for livestock breeds that are becoming rare, or old types of fruit, vegetables and grains. The overarching goal is the protection of biological diversity ( biodiversity ).

Since 1966, Red Lists of Endangered Species have been drawn up, with the aim of trying to quantify the degree of endangerment of species. Species conservation programs aimed mostly a single risk or from the protection extinction from endangered species.

Species protection is part of nature conservation . In addition to the protection of populations of individual species, this also deals in particular with the protection of entire habitats ( biotopes , ecotopes ). One also speaks of biotope protection (habitat protection). (Direct) species protection and biotope protection in equal measure are intended to prevent or slow down species extinction.


The justification for the protection of species is ultimately a problem of natural ethics and environmental ethics . On the one hand, a distinction must be made between a human-oriented argument based ultimately on considerations of utility, for which the existence of species is directly useful for humans, e.g. for the provision of ecosystem services . For example, it is argued that wild bees should be protected because their function as pollinators is of great value for agricultural production (see also bee deaths ). This is the position of anthropocentrism . On the other hand, there are justifications that ascribe an independent (intrinsic) value to the species as part of nature, whether or not they are individually useful for humans. This attitude is summarized as physiocentrism . Most of the time, there is no sharp distinction between the two approaches when giving reasons. The ethicist Konrad Ott differentiates between different levels of justification: The environmental ethical (final) justification at the top level is followed by legal norms derived from it, which are made manageable in guidelines. This then results in nature conservation action concepts that lead to regional models and ultimately to specific, local measures. Mixing the justification levels leads to confusion.

Today, species protection is carried out on a scientific basis, based on ecological knowledge of the autecology of the species to be protected and their habitats . However, like all ethical questions, it cannot ultimately be justified scientifically (cf. naturalistic fallacy ). The definition of goals and priorities for the protection of species is always the result of political and social decisions that follow their own norms.

The preservation of particularly attractive rare species is also an aesthetic motivation for species protection. Often attempts are made to illustrate the protection of threatened habitats by protecting particularly attractive or emotionally touching species. A distinction is made in the specialist discussion:

  • Flagship species . Particularly charismatic and famous species, such as the giant panda as a symbol of the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature) association.
  • Key species (sometimes referred to as "ecosystem engineers"). Individual species that are of particular importance for the function or maintenance of entire ecosystems. An example would be the African elephant , which is of vital importance for the preservation of the tree savannahs of East Africa.
  • Umbrella types (from the English "umbrella species", derived from English umbrella: umbrella). By protecting an attractive species, other species should be protected as well, like an umbrella. It is easier to mobilize nature conservation funds for the protection of the mountain gorilla than for the direct preservation of the mountain rainforests of East Africa, on which the survival of not only these, but numerous other, less known species depends.
  • Target species are species that are representative of numerous other species in terms of their habitat requirements. By concentrating on target species, the measures are easier to handle and the successes can be measured more easily than if countless individual species are to be addressed. The hermit , a species of beetle that is strictly protected according to the EU Habitats Directive , is representative of the numerous species that rely on dead wood as a habitat. They are related
  • Types of indicators . Due to their occurrence, these species indicate the state of numerous environmental parameters that are difficult to measure directly and thus the value of a habitat. The triangular vortex worm ( Dugesia gonocephala ) is an indicator species for rivers with little or no water pollution.

The conservation of biodiversity as one of the elements of biodiversity has been an argument in favor of species protection that has been gaining great interest since the 1990s. This can be viewed at the level of molecular genetics (genetic diversity), the populations and metapopulations at the species level and the level of the biological communities. The aspect of recreation and homeland protection traditionally also plays a role in species protection.

Population protection

The protection of populations of selected species is an important tool of species protection. In addition to the direct protection of individuals of threatened species and their habitats, methods of population protection also include population support through special conservation breeding programs and reintroduction, such as the Przewalski horse in Mongolia or the lynx in the Harz Mountains .

Species protection in Germany

History in Germany

§ 2 Reich Nature Conservation Act of 1935

The protection of animals threatened with extinction, particularly bird species with a positive emotional impact, was at the beginning of the development of species protection. One of the oldest associations is the German Association for Bird Protection , which was founded in 1899 by industrialist Lina Hähnle . It was later decided that it was necessary to protect plants from extinction as well. In 1910 the " Plant Protection District Berchtesgaden Alps " was established. According to the current state of knowledge, the term species protection was first used in 1912 by Otto Rudorff . The lawyer reported on the fourth conference for the preservation of natural monuments in Prussia on December 9, 1911, at which legal regulations for nature conservation were discussed. The term was also used here and there in the Weimar Republic, but it was not until the time of National Socialism that it became established within the administrative apparatus that was responsible for nature conservation. The protection of animals and plants was now called species protection. Biotope or ecotope protection usually does not focus on individual animal or plant species. Individual species that occur there and are threatened with extinction often play an important role in public discussion and legal argumentation. In 1976 the Federal Nature Conservation Act came into force.

Situation and discussion in Germany

For the International Day of Species Protection in 2012, NABU presented a current analysis of the state of nature and species protection in Germany. In it he presented bird species worthy of protection and rare habitats and called the result “shameful”. He criticized that laws and the designation of protected areas alone would not save species and habitats. Above all, the work for the conservation of biological diversity needs to be financed, otherwise the acute extinction of species cannot be stopped. Successes have been recorded with otters, beavers, eagle owls, cranes and wolves. Overall, however, the trend is negative: the curlew, the lapwing and the partridge are threatening to disappear.

Protected species in Germany

The legal basis for species protection in Germany is the Federal Nature Conservation Act (BNatSchG). The law recognizes two levels of protection for animal and plant species:

  • specially protected species ( Section 7 (2) No. 13 BNatSchG)
  • strictly protected species (§ 7 Paragraph 2 No. 14)

The protection categories build on one another. All strictly protected species are also specially protected.

Definition of protected species

Regulation circuit Artenschutz.png

Strictly or specially protected species are defined in various ways. The legal basis of the protection status also has an impact on the content and scope of the protection. This is because the essential principles of species protection are based on international agreements which, in addition to national regulations, also have a direct binding effect. The protection status is currently based on the following principles:

  • Federal Species Protection Ordinance . Appendix 1 of the ordinance contains a list of species with an indication of their protection status.
  • Habitats Directive of the European Union. However, only the species listed in Appendix IV are directly protected . All species listed here are strictly protected. A listing in one of the other annexes to the directive only obliges politicians and administrations to act, but does not establish any direct protective effect.
  • European Union Birds Directive . All bird species living in the wild in Europe are specially protected species in Germany.
  • EU species protection regulation (EC regulation No. 338/97). With this regulation, the Washington Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) is implemented in European and national law. It should be noted that the CITES agreement has no direct binding effect, i. H. Changes only become legally binding when they are incorporated into the EU species protection regulation.

There are currently no other legal bases for protected species, i. H. none of the not in one of the above The species listed in the lists is a legally protected species in Germany (animal and plant species are, however, also subject to numerous other legal provisions, for example the Federal Hunting Act ). In the lists, not only individual species but also higher-ranking groups such as genera and families are protected across the board; this means that all associated species are automatically protected by law. An overview of the legal protection status is provided by B. the WISIA database of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation.

A widespread misunderstanding exists particularly in relation to species on the Red List of Endangered Species . However, the red list is only an expert opinion on the hazardous situation. This does not result in any legal protection.


The provisions of Chapter 5 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act apply to all specially or strictly protected species. The most important regulation for the protection of species is § 44 BNatSchG. There is a ban on killing all specially protected species, and strictly protected species may not even be "significantly disturbed". In addition, the specially protected species may not be taken into possession, traded or commercially displayed without special authorization; this also applies to parts or products made from it. Possibly. the owner must prove his authorization ( § 46 BNatSchG). A special document (“CITES document”) is required for the import and export of species protected by the Washington Convention on the Protection of Species.

These protections essentially apply to direct killing or persecution. If a protected species is harmed due to human activity, however, a number of exceptions apply. As a rule, the statutory protection of species does not extend to the killing or disturbance of animal and plant species due to agricultural, forestry and fishing use (provided that “good professional practice” has been observed). For species that are exclusively nationally protected (i.e. those that are specially protected on the basis of the Federal Species Protection Ordinance), there is also no special protection in the event of damage due to an " intervention ", for example a construction project. For the remaining species, the developer may have to prove by means of a species protection test that he has not violated the protection provisions.

Species protection test

The species protection test examines the extent to which animal and plant species are impaired by a specific planning measure, e.g. B. as part of an environmental impact assessment . In particular, the particularly and strictly protected animal and plant species are considered. The species protection test u. a. in construction projects in the area of traffic route construction and in the development of new building areas . Species protection audits have increased in importance in Germany since the late 1990s because the Federal Republic of Germany had entered into some legally binding self-commitments in international agreements that had simply not been observed for some time before. Court rulings, the planned construction projects such. For example, forbidding the construction of a new motorway because the issues of species protection had not been adequately taken into account, ultimately motivated the legislature to considerably tighten up species protection law. However, this new right only benefits a few species that are listed in the relevant agreements, including a particularly large number of bird species (due to the European Birds Directive ). Species protection tests have been standard for all construction projects since the amendment to the Federal Nature Conservation Act, in particular in accordance with Section 44 (1) of the Federal Nature Conservation Act (so-called access bans). So the species protection issues z. B. examined in the context of the establishment, modification and cancellation of development plans by the responsible lower nature conservation authorities.

International species protection

At the international level there is a whole series of programs to promote species protection. Some examples are:

  • Washington Convention on the Protection of Species : To control the international trade in wild animals and plants with the aim of protecting endangered species from extinction.
  • UN Convention on Biodiversity : For the protection, management or restoration of species, genes and habitats; came into force in October 2014 (see also Aichi targets ).
  • Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS, Bonn Convention ): Convention of 116 contracting parties worldwide for the conservation of migratory wild animals.
  • Bern Convention : Federation between 51 states with the aim of preserving wild plants and animals and their natural habitats in Europe.
    • Emerald Network : The designation of the Emerald areas, also known as “Areas of Special Conservation Interest” (ASCI, “Areas with Special Conservation Interest”), is based on Resolution No. 1 (1989) adopted in 1989 and Recommendation No. 16 (1989) of the Standing Committee of the Bern Convention.

See also


  • Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" (1962)
  • Michaela Arndörfer: How many species do humans need? : a search for traces , Vienna; Cologne, Weimar: Böhlau-Verlag 2010 series: Austria / Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management: Green series of the Ministry of Life, Volume 22, ISBN 978-3-205-78516-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Thorsten Galert: Biodiversity as a problem of natural ethics. Literature review and bibliography. “Gray series” of the European Academy for Research into Consequences of Scientific and Technical Developments, Volume 12 ( ISSN  1435-487X ). Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler 1998.
  2. Christoph Kehl: Valuation of biodiversity. TAB Office for Technology Assessment at the German Bundestag, final report on the TA project. Working reports No. 161, May 2014 ( ISSN  2364-2599 ).
  3. Konrad Ott: Reasons, goals and priorities in nature conservation. In: Ludwig Fischer (editor): Projection surface nature: On the connection between images of nature and social conditions. Hamburg University Press, 2004. ISBN 978-3-937816-01-2 .
  4. Andreas Krüß, Uwe Riecken, Ulrich Sukopp (2016): The ecologicalization of species and biotope protection - successes and limits of mutual fertilization. Nature and landscape 91 (focus on ecology: a natural science shapes nature conservation): pp. 436–444.
  5. ^ Rüdiger Wittig, Manfred Niekisch: Biodiversity: Fundamentals, Endangerment, Protection. Springer Verlag, 2014. ISBN 978-3-642-54694-5 , therein chap. 14.4.6, page 427 ff.
  6. G. Hachmann, R. Koch: 150 years of ecology - a natural science shapes nature conservation. Notes on the history and use of the terms "ecology" and "species protection". (Nature and Landscape Volume 91, issue 12/2016). Pp. 588-589. ISSN  0028-0615
  7. NABU press service NR. 25/12; March 2, 2012 Nature Conservation / Species Protection Day (March 3). NABU Atlas shows a shameful picture of species and nature conservation in Germany
  8. homepage WISIA (Scientific Information System on the International Protection of species) of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation, accessed on 23 October 2013
  9. cites.org
  10. Christian Mihatsch: badische-zeitung.de: The world is losing 380 animal and plant species per day . Badische Zeitung , October 6, 2014
  11. cbd.int
  12. cms.int
  13. coe.int