National park

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Sarek National Park in Sweden is Europe's oldest - and to this day one of the largest.
The Teide National Park ( Spain ) is one of the most visited in Europe.

A national park is an extensive protected area that is mostly only subject to natural development and is protected from unwanted human interference and environmental pollution through special measures . As a rule, these are areas that are particularly ecologically valuable or of outstanding scenic charm and that are administered on behalf of a government. They are also often used as recreational areas and for gentle tourism . The definition of a national park is not the same in all states. Nevertheless, there is a common idea: the preservation of large natural areas that have not been changed by human intervention for posterity and as a symbol of national pride.


The idea of placing particularly fascinating wilderness areas under protection originated in the early 19th century. The English poet William Wordsworth called for this in 1810, as did the American painter George Catlin in 1832 and the Swedish baron Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld in 1880. The original idea was to preserve the wonders of nature so that future generations can enjoy them and relax here can. In 1864, at the instigation of the conservationist John Muir, the first protected area was defined - in today's Yosemite National Park ( California ) - but it was only incorporated into the emerging national park system in 1906 . The first national park was founded in 1872 with the Yellowstone National Park also in the USA. In contrast to the Yosemite Conservation Zone, Yellowstone National Park was not under the responsibility of the state, but directly to the US government . In 1916 the National Park Service was established as an independent agency of the Ministry of the Interior.

Countries Canada , Australia and New Zealand soon followed with the establishment of national parks, since even large areas of (seemingly) untouched nature existed that could be relatively easily protected. In 1879 Australia founded the Royal National Park , in 1887 Canada founded Banff National Park (then under the name Rocky Mountain National Park ) and New Zealand in the same year the Tongariro National Park .

In contrast to non-European countries, when the first national parks in northern Sweden were founded, at least some of the rights of use of the indigenous peoples ( Saami reindeer in Abisko National Park) were taken into account.

Before the colonization by Europeans, all of these countries were inhabited by indigenous peoples whose influence on most of the landscapes over the centuries had a definite influence - even in the most sparsely populated regions. However, this fact was ignored in many countries when the national parks were established up to the end of the 20th century: in the vast majority of cases, the ban on use associated with the national park facility also extended to the traditional “ecosystem people” who lived there . Not infrequently they were even expelled from their ancestral land in the course of being placed under protection. Such concepts are based on the idea that human activity is fundamentally harmful to nature. It is only since the beginning of the 21st century that the local communities have increasingly been included in the protected area concepts as “natural elements” of the landscape - not least because of their own commitment.

Pleshcheyevo Lake in Russia, national park since 1988

In Europe, the first national parks were established in Sweden in 1909 and in Switzerland in 1914 . The national park idea became particularly established after the Second World War , and today there are more than 2,200 national parks in around 120 countries. The scenic diversity of the areas is enormous and includes almost all types of landscape.

The history of the origins of the Royal National Park in Australia is interesting. With an area of ​​154.42 km² it is largely located in the metropolitan area of ​​the megacity Sydney and is the second oldest national park in the world. It was built in 1879 for economic reasons after coal deposits were discovered in the area and politically influential mine owners in the outback feared competition at the gates of the city. In this way, a jewel of largely untouched nature was preserved.

In German, the terms natural monument and nature reserve were common since the beginning of the 20th century. The term national park only found its way into the 1970s. Initially, it was more about the national significance and less about the criteria in the sense of the IUCN.

Today, nature conservation is coordinated worldwide by the IUCN . The IUCN organizes an international congress ( World Parks Congress ) every ten years , at which strategies for nature conservation in national parks are defined. The last congress took place in Sydney in 2014 .

IUCN category: National Park


The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources  (IUCN) uses a 1978 and 1994 introduced revised system in which national parks , the Category  II protected areas form.

"Category II protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible, spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational, and visitor opportunities. "

“Protected areas that are intended to protect extensive natural areas including the species and ecosystems that occur in the long term. These should also be available - environmentally friendly and with local acceptance - for psychological needs, science, research and education, and for local recreation and sightseeing. "

According to this definition, national parks are natural areas on the water or on land that are intended to

  • to protect the integrity of one or more ecosystems and to preserve it for current and future generations.
  • to prevent exploitation as well as other activities that damage the area.
  • to provide a basis for spirituality, research, training, recreation and sightseeing that is ecologically and culturally compatible.


As with all IUCN categories, the focus of the classification is on the design of the protection goal and management (measures of interventions and bans): For the recognition of a national park, the IUCN basically requires that nature is left to itself on 75% of the area. Exceptions are possible and regulatory interventions are also permitted locally if this is necessary after scientific research and monitoring in order to maximize biodiversity or to favor rarer species . This is how a national park differs from a total reserve .

Examples of measures in national parks:

  • Stock regulation of game
  • Preservation of cultural landscapes ( meadows that would develop into a forest without ongoing maintenance )
  • Elimination of introduced, alien species
  • Reintroduction of locally extinct species
  • Change of water to a sedimentation or to prevent it to move in a more natural state (if they have been affected by man prior to the establishment of the National Park)

The targeted interventions in nature are considered necessary to restore and, if necessary, maintain the ecological balance that has been disturbed by humans . Measures to maintain the equilibrium are necessary when the ecosystem has been significantly changed by humans (extinction of large predators or changes in the salt content of a lake ) and this change cannot be reversed. Other interventions are intended to preserve a variety of biotopes and to save rare or endangered species through artificially improved conditions. Economic use is even permitted on up to 25% of the area of ​​a national park ( hunting , fishing , agriculture , removal of firewood ). In contrast to a nature park or landscape protection area , however, it is not the needs of the people but those of nature that take priority in a national park.

Differentiation from national definitions

The management-oriented term of the IUCN Category II National Park has hardly anything to do with the national park in the designations of the countries, although many - especially more recent - national legal definitions are based on the requirements of the IUCN.

Examples of the differences:

In some states, the class of national parks even primarily includes aspects of monument protection , i.e. architectural objects that are provided with landscape protection for the environment in the manner of a nature park.

National parks in practice

Grand Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Wattamolla Beach in the Royal National Park , Australia

National parks are mostly located in remote, barely populated areas and are often home to an unusually large number of different native animal and plant species, some of which are threatened. These are to be granted an environment in national parks that ensures their long-term survival. Sometimes national parks also contain minerals or rare geological objects, such as the geysers and hot springs of Yellowstone National Park.

On the other hand, national parks are being set up in more populated regions to restore them to a more natural state. In some countries like England and Wales , national parks are neither owned by the government nor are they pristine wilderness . Rather, they can contain human settlements that use their land. In Africa national parks are mainly used as game reserves, in Asia more for scientific purposes. North America offers classic national parks for recreational and exploration purposes, where the effects of mass tourism pose a threat to nature conservation .

Most national parks serve not only to protect plants and animals, but also to help people relax. This can lead to conflicts, especially in the case of very heavily visited national parks, as contact with people reduces the escape distance of the animals ( national park effect ). On the other hand, the national parks can use the tourist income to finance protective measures for animals and plants and it is hoped that the visitors gain a positive attitude towards nature conservation through the experience of nature. For the national park administrations it is a difficult challenge to find the balance between the protection of natural assets and their public accessibility.

Another challenge is the surveillance of the national park area. Particularly in countries with widespread poverty , illegal logging and poaching occur time and again in national parks .

For information and educational work in national parks, the US National Park Service developed the concept of heritage interpretation around 1950 , according to which many other visitor-oriented institutions work today.


The world's largest national park is the Northeast Greenland National Park , which with its 972,000 km² takes up almost 45% of the land area of Greenland .


The term national park was first established with the Bavarian Forest National Park in October 1970. The Berchtesgaden National Park followed in August 1978 . In 1985, 1986 and 1990 the coastal areas of the German Wadden Sea were designated as national parks. Until 1989 there were no national parks in the GDR . Around 15% of the country's area was closed to public access and featured almost untouched landscapes. In the times of upheaval in 1990, before reunification, five national parks were implemented in the GDR's national park program. Since then, six more national parks were added by 2004, the establishment of a park "Elbtalaue" failed in 1999. Since the two national parks in the Harz merged into a common Harz National Park in January 2006 , after the establishment of the Hunsrück-Hochwald National Park in March 2015 there were 16 national parks in Germany . Since the 1970s, however, it has been controversial whether the national parks established in the Federal Republic meet the international requirements of the IUCN. The Kellerwald-Edersee National Park received its first official certificate in 2011 .


In Austria there is no direct connection with the IUCN category: nature conservation in Austria is a matter for the federal states . National parks are the only protected areas of the federal government , i.e. all of Austria. They are implemented via § 15a contracts , which are internal contracts between the federal government and the federal states. In state law, the national parks are then, where they exist (Vorarlberg has no share in a national park), designated as a separate protected area within the state borders, partly as a protection class, partly only prescribed: In most cases, the designation as a national park replaces all previously existing ones Protection categories. Salzburg and Carinthia know the special protection area as a stricter supplement to national park protection . The national parks are consistently designated as part of the Natura 2000 European network .

The IUCN requirements for Category II are also implemented by defining a core zone and a peripheral zone (buffer zone) . The first is then IUCN category II, the second category V ( protected landscape ) or VI ( resource protection ). One park ( NP Nockberge ) was only classified as Category V and was therefore converted into a biosphere park. The national parks are then consistently surrounded by less strict protection classes, such as landscape protection areas or protected parts of the landscape in the sense of a further buffering, and are networked with other nearby important protected areas in the sense of an ecological corridor ( ECONNECT ).


  • Bernhard Gissibl, Sabine Höhler, Patrick Kupper (Eds.): Civilizing Nature, National Parks in Global Historical Perspective. Berghahn, Oxford 2012, ISBN 978-0-85745-525-3 .
  • Hans Bibelriether , Rudolf L. Schreiber (ed.): The national parks of Europe. Süddeutscher Verlag, Munich 1989, ISBN 3-7991-6319-0 .


  • Hans Bibelriether (Hrsg.): Naturland Germany: Leisure guide for national parks and natural landscapes. Kosmos, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-440-07207-X .
  • EUROPARC Germany: Quality criteria and standards for German national parks. Berlin 2009 ([Download from]).
  • EUROPARC Germany (formerly FÖNAD) Study of existing and potential national parks in Germany. Landwirtschaftsverlag, Münster 1997, ISBN 3-89624-307-1 .
  • Henry Makowski : National parks in Germany. Treasures of nature, battlefields of nature conservation. Wachholtz, Neumünster 1997, ISBN 3-529-05322-8 .

See also

Web links

Commons : National Parks  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: National Park  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


Individual evidence

  1. Europarc Federation (Ed.): Living Parks, 100 Years of National Parks in Europe , Oekom Verlag, Munich 2009.
  2. Gällivare kommun, Jokkmokks kommun, Länsstyrelsen Norrbotten, Mijá ednam, Naturvårdsverket (ed.): Laponiaprocessen - Redovisning av regeringsuppdraget att utveckla formerna för förvaltning av världsarvet Laponia. (Administrative plan for the UNESCO World Heritage Site Laponia), Bilaga 1, Jokkmokk 2010. Bilaga 1, p. 170.
  3. Claudia Notzke: Aboriginal Peoples and Natural Resources Canada. Captus Press, Ontario (CA) 1994, ISBN 1-895712-03-3 . P. 235ff.
  4. Quote IUCN Protected Areas Categories System ,, accessed August 3, 2013;
    Translation Wikipedia, follows species protection: National parks (IUCN Category II) ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive )
    Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ,, accessed August 3, 2013.
  5. Species protection: Natural monuments (IUCN Category III) ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. ,;
    For examples of regulatory interventions in national parks, see the performance report of the National Park Donau-Auen GmbH 1997–2006 ( memento of the original from February 21, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
    Info: The
     @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (pdf, and area management in the Neusiedlersee - Seewinkel National Park ( memento of the original dated August 4, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (at
  6. National parks in Austria ( Memento of the original from September 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , P. 3 (PDF brochure from the Austrian Federal Environment Agency; 1.2 MB) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. a b European Environment Agency (Ed.): Protected areas in Europe - an overview . EEA Report No 5/2012. 2012, ISBN 978-92-9213-329-0 , ISSN  1725-9177 , 4.1.3 The IUCN categories for types of protected area management , p. 55 , col. 1 u. 2 , doi : 10.2800 / 55955 ( pdf ,
  8. Prof. Dr. Hans-Heiner Bergmann on the national park effect , accessed on November 5, 2010.
  9. ^ Expert Council for Environmental Issues , Expert Opinion 1978, BT-Drs. 8/1938 (PDF; 17.3 MB), Rn 1255 ff.
  10. NABU Press Service Hessen: Wilderness on over 75 percent of the area - Kellerwald National Park is now IUCN certified . Retrieved March 13, 2011.