Large natural regions of Germany

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Large natural regions
1st order (dark red)
2nd order (orange)
3rd order (violet) or
 main unit groups (violet, thinner)
according to the Federal Institute for Regional Studies

A division of Germany into large natural regions , main units and sub-units primarily takes into account geomorphological , geological , hydrological , biogeographical and pedological criteria in order to divide the landscape into larger uniform areas. Apart from the national external borders, political borders play no role.

In addition to the natural spatial division, there is now also an official division into so-called landscape areas , which is more geared towards the use of the regions by people and accordingly sometimes draws significantly different boundaries.

Basics by the Federal Institute for Regional Studies

Regions according to Meyen, Schmithüsen, et al., From 1962, see introduction

The natural structure of Germany, as it is used today by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) as well as by most of the state institutes, is mainly based on the work of the manual of the natural structure of Germany from 1953 to 1962. This divided what is now the federal territory ( at that time: FRG and GDR) into 86 so-called main unit groups with two-digit code numbers between 01 and 90, which in turn were split up into up to 10, in individual cases more main units (three-digit). In the mapping on a scale of 1: 1,000,000 that is part of the manual, the main unit groups were once again summarized in superordinate large regions with the updated map from 1960.

The result was a division of Germany into five (since 1979: six) natural spatial regions (major landscapes) of the 1st order , which are divided into a total of 18 (since 1964: 19) major regions of the 2nd order . The main unit groups represent mainly large regions of the 3rd order , the main units regions of the 4th order . Some large regions of the 2nd order contain only one main unit group ( Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania coastal area , Harz , Thuringian Basin , Obermainisch-Oberpfälzisches Hügelland , southern Alpine foothills ), others summarize large landscapes known by name ( Rhenish Slate Mountains , Southwest German plains ), others group completely new.

In the follow-up work in single sheets 1: 200,000 , which continued into the 1990s and which served to develop regions of the 5th and lower order (decimal places after the three-digit main unit code), it turned out that some of the boundaries of the major regions of the 2nd and 3rd order had to be corrected and in individual cases no longer correspond to the boundaries of the main unit groups. However, this does not play a role in the numbering following the decadic system, which only starts from the 3rd order.

Reorganization by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation

Regions according to Ssymank, from 1994, rarely used

From 1992 to 1994, Axel Ssymank et al. On behalf of the BfN, the main unit groups 01-90. These were mostly retained within their limits, but in individual cases 2 to 4 main unit groups were combined according to the manual, while in the case of the North and Baltic Seas, one previous group was split into four new ones.

The numbering of the new units D01 to D73 was completely new from north to south and not, as in the manual, in the opposite direction. Therefore it is not compatible with the numbering of the main units and sub-units and has not been accepted in the state offices. Even the BfN itself largely follows the older system of the manual in the system of its landscape profiles.

Ssymank combines the natural areas into eight so-called large landscapes , which are a little less finely subdivided than the large regions of the 2nd order of the Federal Institute for Regional Studies. The only discrepancy between the two systems is the division of the North German lowlands into an east and a west part, which is justified by the climatic division into Atlantic and continental . The boundary is arbitrarily drawn immediately to the east of units D22, D24, D28, D31 and D33.
These large landscapes have not yet been cited in the literature.

Landscape profiles of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation

The BfN has also commissioned a nationwide breakdown into so-called landscapes , for each of which so-called landscape profiles were created. These primarily served a rough categorization into 28 landscape types , which are divided into a total of 856 landscapes, and the inventory of protected areas and land use. They do not represent a natural structure and were created with relatively little effort; in particular, landscapes were only rarely analyzed on site, but mainly assessed using satellite images and existing lists. In addition, individual pieces of information from the individual sheets 1: 200,000 were summarized as far as they existed.

The landscape profiles have five-digit code numbers, the first three of which usually correspond to the natural spatial unit according to the manual; Metropolitan areas are sorted separately.

List of major regions 1st to 3rd order

The main unit groups, which more or less correspond to major regions of the 3rd order , are subsequently assigned to major regions of the 2nd order and these in turn are assigned to major regions of the 1st order . This subdivision comes mainly from the publications of the Institute for Regional Studies since 1960:

  • The first draft by Heinrich Müller-Miny appeared in the updated map for the manual, the overview maps of the individual sheets from 1960 onwards and in the manual 9th ​​delivery (1962)
  • In the single sheets from the year of publication 1964, this design was slightly changed:
    • The Upper Palatinate-Upper Main hill country rose from the greater region of the 3rd order to a second order.
    • The 2nd order Loessbörden region was expanded, especially in the west.
  • There was another change in the single sheets from 1979 (sheet 182 Burghausen) up to the last published ones (sheets Munich and Tegernsee 1994):
    • The first-order low mountain range region was divided into two major regions, the first-order low mountain range threshold and tiered land
  • The structure of natural spaces in Saxony , which has been published and continuously developed since the dissolution of the Institute for Regional Studies, assigns the larger northern part of the main unit group Upper Lusatia to the Loessbörden, so that only the Lusatian mountainous region in the south remains in the low mountain range threshold.

Due to the changes in the Loessbörden area, a few main unit groups are now distributed over two different large regions of the 2nd or even 1st order.

For a better overview, the major regions of the 1st and 2nd order are listed from north to south, and in the second line from west to east. Within a 2nd or 3rd order region, the listing then follows the preceding numbers according to the manual; the numbers according to BfN are put in brackets. Real large regions of the 3rd order are written in bold italics.

For better orientation, there are detail maps on the right of the lists, all of which are kept to the same scale.

North and east Sea

As an exception, the three-digit main units of Group 90 are listed here, as these de facto represent large regions of the 3rd order.

North Sea

Main unit groups North Sea and Marshes.png

Baltic Sea

North German Lowlands


Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania coastal area

Main unit groups Baltic Sea and Lake District.png

Northeast German Lake District

Main unit groups lowland western part.png

Central North German Lowland

The north German geest landscape near the North Sea is divided into three parts by the valleys of Weser / Aller and Elbe. The north-eastern part (69) is separated from the central part by the Elbe valley (67 and 87). The mapping of the large regions up to 1963 also showed the parts to the left of Aller and Unterweser (up to 62) and the central part (63/64) as two separate large regions of the 3rd order - a separation that was retained until the last work in 1994. From 1964, however, the extreme north-west of the Elbe Valley Lowlands (87), the Lauenburg Elbe Valley (876.4 according to the Lüneburg sheet of 1980; see dashed line), together with 63, 64 and 69, was drawn as just one major region in the maps of the major regions. Until 1963, Westphalian Bight (54) and Lower Rhine (55/57) were not separated from the Geest landscapes on the left of the Aller as a third order large region.

Main unit groups lowland eastern part and Loessboerden.png
Main unit groups lowland Suedwestteil.png


Main unit groups Loessboerden.png

Since the Börden - like all major regions - should be simply connected according to the specifications , a small strip of the loess-free Middle Weser Valley around Minden would also belong between the Lübbecker Lößland and the Lower Saxony Börden, along with the Kleinenbremener Basin .

Low mountain range threshold

Rhenish Slate Mountains

Main unit groups Rheinisches Schiefergebirge.png

(Order from west to east and internally from north to south if necessary)

The allocation of the basement forest (344, see dashed orange line), which represents a natural part of the Rhenish Slate Mountains, is disputed, but is assigned to the West Hessian mountainous region in the handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany. Martin Bürgener, editor of the Arolsen paper, adheres to the numbering of the manual, but treats the Kellerwald as part of the Süderbergland (33).

Lower Saxony-Hessian mountainous region

Main unit groups northern low mountain range.png

(Order from north to south, secondly from west to east)


Thuringian Basin

Contentious are the assignments of Ohmgebirge along with bleach Röder Bergen (375.2) and the Eichsfelder boiler in the West; the Institute for Regional Studies assigned them to the Lower Saxony mountainous region, while in the literature of the GDR they were mostly viewed as the edge plates of the Thuringian Basin (see deviation of the blue line from the orange line in the west). Another borderline case is the Querfurter Platte (to 489; see deviation of the blue from the black line in the east.

Main unit groups eastern low mountain range.png

Eastern low mountain range threshold

Layer level land on both sides of the Upper Rhine Rift

Palatinate-Saarland layer level country

Main unit groups western layer level country.png

(Structure from north to south, in the second line from west to east)

Upper Rhine lowlands

Main Unit Groups Southwest German Step Country.png

(Division from north to south.)

Southwest German step country

(Order according to layers of basement rock / red sandstone, shell limestone, Keuper-Lias and Malm from north to south, internally from west to east.)

Upper Palatinate-Upper Main hill country

Alpine foothills

(Order from north to south, secondarily from west to east)

Northern Alpine Foreland

This map is not up to date and under 02 still summarizes landscapes that mostly belong to the Alps.

Southern foothills of the Alps


Since the Alps have a relatively fine mosaic, the (three-digit) main units are also listed here as an exception.

Structure according to manual, which was refined by the LfU

Northern Limestone Alps

Swabian-Bavarian Prealps

Different structure according to Dongus and Hormann

The four single sheets 1: 200,000 with Alpine parts appeared relatively late. In the Salzburg newspaper published in 1978, Klaus Hormann suggested abandoning the previous division into groups 01 and 02 and using the numbers from 90, which were not yet assigned on the mainland, for a structure that deviated significantly from the manual. This suggestion was followed by Hansjörg Dongus , who from 1991 to 1994 edited the other alpine leaves (Tegernsee, Kaufbeuren / Mittenwald, Lindau / Oberstdorf) as one of the very last leaves. The structure of the resulting division of the Alps differs significantly from the other divisions, as the individual units in particular are no longer simply connected . Only the main units according to this system are listed below:

The Greater Region 02 according to Handbuch is located centrally on the northern edge of the Alps, its southern part is occupied by the intermediate Limestone Alps (935); in non-labeled segments, flysch alps (94) and edge chain links (936) mix with depressions (908, 930).

For details and the "translation" into the system of the manual see Natural Spatial Structure of the Alps # Natural Spatial Classification according to Hormann and Dongus !

See also

Individual evidence

  1. The number is explained by the fact that the code 47/48 was used for only one group and the numbers 49, 65 and 66 did not appear.
  2. ^ Emil Meynen and Josef Schmithüsen : Handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany . Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Remagen / Bad Godesberg 1953–1962 (9 deliveries in 8 books, updated map 1: 1,000,000 with main units 1960)
  3. a b c d e f g h Natural spatial large region maps 1960–1963, 1964–1978 and 1979–1994 according to Müller-Miny et al. (PDF; 1.2 MB)
  4. a b The large regions of the 3rd order partially combine several groups.
  5. Biogeographical regions and natural spatial main units of Germany (PDF; 216 kB) according to Ssymank (1994), overview and commentary; Federal Agency for Nature Conservation. Attention: In this document, the term main units is misleadingly used for main unit groups (in the sense of the Institute for Regional Studies)!
  6. Landscape profiles of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation ( information )
  7. a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Exact name of the Greater Region 2nd or 3rd order unknown!
  8. This group was only proclaimed in 1991 and is different from the old group 02, see different structure according to Dongus and Hormann
  9. Natural areas of the main unit groups 01 and 02 in the Bavaria Atlas of the Bavarian State GovernmentNorthern Limestone High Alps and Swabian-Bavarian Prealps ( notes )
  10. ^ Hansjörg Dongus : Geographical land survey: The natural spatial units on sheet 187/193 Lindau / Oberstdorf. Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1991. →  Online map (PDF; 6.1 MB)
  11. ^ Hansjörg Dongus : Geographical land survey: The natural space units on sheet 188/194 Kaufbeuren / Mittenwald. Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1993. →  Online map (PDF; 6.4 MB)
  12. Hansjörg Dongus : Geographical land survey: The natural space units on sheet 189/195 Tegernsee. Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1994. →  Online map (PDF; 5.2 MB)
  13. ^ Klaus Hormann: Geographical land survey: The natural space units on sheet 190/196 Salzburg. Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Bad Godesberg 1978. →  Online map (PDF; 6.1 MB)
  14. Sheet Salzburg only extends to 937.1 Osterhorngruppe , so Homann has left the naming of the main unit to later editors in Austria.


  • Emil Meynen , Josef Schmithüsen : Handbook of the natural spatial structure of Germany . Federal Institute for Regional Studies, Remagen / Bad Godesberg 1953–1962 (9 deliveries in 8 books, updated map 1: 1,000,000 with main units 1960).
  • A. Ssymank: New requirements in European nature conservation. The Natura 2000 protected area system and the "EU Habitats Directive". In: magazine nature and landscape. Volume 69, Issue 9, Bonn-Bad Godesberg 1994, ISSN  0028-0615 , pp. 395-406.

Web links

Commons : Natural regions of Germany  - collection of images, videos and audio files