Natural forest reserve

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Sign natural forest cells in the nature reserve Hunau - Long Ridge - Heidberg
Herrenholz natural forest in Goldenstedt ( Lower Saxony )

As a natural forest reserve ( NWR ) greater are forest designated areas in which the extraction of timber and other forestry uses are prohibited. Country-specific different names are used for the reserves: natural forest reserve , natural forest , natural forest cell , natural forest parcel , spellbound forest , total reserve , process protection area .


A natural forest reserve is essentially left to natural development, so that, ideally, structures similar to primeval forests emerge again after a long period of time. In addition to nature conservation, their designation is primarily of scientific interest. An attempt is made to represent all important forest types in reserves.

In connection with the question of natural forest development without human intervention, the forest scientist Herbert Hesmer proposed in 1934 that parts of all forest communities between around five to 20 hectares in size should be separated as so-called "natural forest cells" that are excluded from any economic use and should only serve as research and demonstration objects. However, Hesmer's suggestion was only put into practice after the Second World War due to legal bases. In their modern form they go back to the initiative of the forest scientist Hans Leibundgut (Switzerland) and his pupil Hans Lamprecht (Germany).

The natural forest reserves are looked after at the European Forest Institute  (EFI) in Joensuu , Finland and Barcelona , Spain . The network has 25 member states that have signed the EFI Convention and around 130 member organizations in 36 countries. The EFI also maintains a database of natural forest reserves.



In Germany there are a total of 742 natural forest reserves with a total area of ​​35,545 hectares (as of June 2018). This means that 0.3 percent of the forest in Germany , which covers an area of ​​around 11.4 million hectares, is designated as a natural forest reserve.

state list Designation of the natural forest reserves Number of natural forest reserves Total area of ​​the natural forest reserves
Baden-Württemberg List of protected forests in Baden-Württemberg Spell forest 127 9,308 ha
Bavaria List of natural forest reserves in Bavaria Natural forest reserve 164 7,514 ha
Brandenburg List of natural forest reserves in Brandenburg Natural forest reserve 28 799 ha
Hamburg List of natural forest reserves in Hamburg Protection forest 4th 37 ha
Hesse List of natural forest reserves in Hessen Natural forest reserve - signposted Bannwald 31 1,228 ha (in addition there are comparison areas)
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania List of natural forest reserves in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Natural forest reserve 35 1,404 ha
Lower Saxony List of natural forest reserves in Lower Saxony Natural forest 107 4,576 ha
North Rhine-Westphalia List of natural forest reserves in North Rhine-Westphalia Natural forest cell 75 1,669 ha
Rhineland-Palatinate List of natural forest reserves in Rhineland-Palatinate Natural forest reserve 54 2,048 ha
Saarland List of natural forest reserves in Saarland Natural forest cell 16 1,161 ha
Saxony List of natural forest reserves in Saxony Natural forest cell 8th 303 ha
Saxony-Anhalt List of natural forest reserves in Saxony-Anhalt Natural forest cell 19th 944 ha
Schleswig-Holstein List of natural forest reserves in Schleswig-Holstein Natural forest cell 16 516 ha
Thuringia List of natural forest reserves in Thuringia Natural forest parcel 58 4,040 ha
Germany as a whole Natural forest reserve 742 35,545 ha

In Bavaria , the first ordinance for the preservation and care of trees and forest protection strips along the roads was passed as early as 1773, which was continuously supplemented and improved. On September 9, 1855, a resolution was passed which made it the duty of the forest staff to prevent any damage to or destruction of "natural attractions". On October 8, 1884, all natural attractions of Bavaria were inventoried for the first time, but not published. In 1978, 135 natural forest reserves with a total area of ​​around 5,000 hectares were designated. The state forest law for Bavaria provides that natural or largely natural forest areas can be established as natural forest reserves. They should represent the natural forest communities nationwide and serve the conservation and research of such forests as well as the safeguarding of biological diversity. Today there are 164 natural forest reserves in Bavaria with a total area of ​​7,514 hectares. Most of them are in the state forest , five reserves are in the communal forest and three are privately owned. The average size of the Bavarian natural forest reserves is 45 hectares. Further useless forest areas are located in the two Bavarian national parks, the Bavarian Forest and Berchtesgaden . The coordination of natural forest reserve research in Bavaria lies with the Bavarian State Institute for Forests and Forestry .


state number Area in ha
Burgenland 014th 0204
Carinthia 046 1806
Lower Austria 055 1628
Upper Austria 017th 0219
Salzburg 007th 0253
Styria 016 1166
Tyrol 024 2806
Vorarlberg 009 0237
Vienna 007th 0084
Fl. in hectares
Source / status: BMLFUW / BFW, 2015

In Austria there are around 200 natural forest reserves (NWR) with a total area of ​​8,603 hectares. The natural forest reserve program is financed by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management and scientifically supervised by the Federal Research and Training Center for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape . The NWR program, which in the early 1980s comprised around 20 reserves, was intensified at federal level with the signing of the resolutions of the Conference of Forest Ministers in Helsinki in 1993 (MCPFE 1993, Helsinki Process).

It is designed as a contractual nature conservation model and is based on long-term (mostly 20-year) civil law contracts between the federal government and the owners. The forest owner participates voluntarily in the NWR program; he owns the land and the forest. The forest owner refrains from using it, for which he receives a fee. This is made up of a fixed base amount for the administrative expenses and the economic value of the portfolio. If the owner intervenes in the forest, the contract will be terminated and all compensation payments must be repaid. 68 of the natural forest reserves, i.e. about 13 , are made up of the Austrian Federal Forests .

The most important criterion for the selection of areas is the representativeness depending on the area of ​​the potential natural forest communities in the individual growth areas . In Austria there are 118 EU forest communities in the 22 growth areas. The aim is to cover all of these forest communities and to achieve a protected area of ​​10,000 ha, with 0.25% of the 4 million ha of forest overall, relatively little in comparison with Switzerland.


In Switzerland there are 1,073 natural forest reserves, including the Swiss National Park , with a total area of ​​46,199 hectares, which corresponds to 3 percent of the Swiss forest area (as of 12/2018). The focus is on the Alps. The goal is 5 percent of the forest area and should be Template: future / in 5 yearsachieved in 2030 . The first forest reserves were created in Switzerland from the beginning of the 20th century: Scatlè (1910), Swiss National Park (1914), Aletsch Forest (1933).

Research in the natural forest reserves is carried out jointly by the Federal Research Institute for Forests, Snow and Landscape (WSL) and the ETH Zurich .



  • Forest in Hessen. Hessisches Ministry for the Environment, Rural Areas and Consumer Protection, 2003, pp. 48–49.
  • Herbert Hesmer : Natural forest cells . Der Deutsche Forstwirt 16 (1934) 133-135 and 141-143.
  • Peter Meyer, Anne Wevell von Krüger, Roland Steffens, Wilhelm Unkrig: Natural forests in Lower Saxony. Protection and Research. Volume 1 - Lower Saxony lowlands . Göttingen / Braunschweig 2006, ISBN 978-3-00-019045-2 .
  • Peter Meyer, Katja Lorenz, Andreas Mölder, Roland Steffens, Wolfgang Schmidt, Thomas Kompa, Anne Wevell von Krüger: Natural Forests in Lower Saxony. Protection and Research. Volume 2 - Lower Saxony mountains . Göttingen / Braunschweig 2015, ISBN 978-3-00-050091-6 .
  • B. Althoff, R. Hocke, J. Willig: Natural forest reserves in Hessen - an overview. (Communications from the Hessian Forest Administration, 24). Wiesbaden 1991, ISBN 3-89051-111-2 . ( pdf ,
  • Rudolf Rösler, Anton Schmidt: Natural forest reserves in the district of the Forest Directorate Niederbayern-Oberpfalz . In: Hoppea. Memoranda of the Regensburg Botanical Society. Vol. 61, Regensburg 2000.


  • Federal Ministry for Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management (Ed.): Natural forest reserves in Austria. Treasures of nature. Brochure, Vienna undated ( pdf , web link , both
  • G. Frank: Natural forest reserves: internationally recognized institution. In: Österreichische Forstzeitung. 114 (3), 2003, pp. 18-19.
  • R. Türk: Natural Forest Reserves - Necessity or Luxury? In: Nature and Land. 97th year, issue 3-2011.
  • Matthias Schickhofer: Primeval forest in Austria. The last wild forest paradises. Brandstätter Verlag, 2013, ISBN 978-3-85033-697-0 ( review ,


  • Peter Brang (Red.), Caroline Heiri, Harald Bugmann: Forest Reserves. 50 years of natural forest development in Switzerland. Haupt, Bern 2011, ISBN 978-3-258-07725-3 .
  • Markus Bolliger, Nicole Imesch, Reinhard Schnidrig: Forest Reserve Policy of Switzerland: Interim Assessment and Perspectives from the Federal Viewpoint (Essay). In: Swiss journal for forestry. Vol. 163, 2012, pp. 199-209.

Web links

Commons : Natural forest cell  - collection of images, videos and audio files




Individual evidence

  1. ^ Herbert Hesmer : Natural forest cells . In: The German forester . tape 16 , no. 13/14 , 1934, pp. 133-135 and 141-143 .
  2. Ernst Röhrig : Professor Dr. Hans Lamprecht retired . In: The forest and wood host . 40th year, no. 1 , 1985, pp. 19 .
  3. About Us. In: European Forest Institute, accessed March 29, 2014 .
  4. ^ Convention on the European Forest Institute . Joensuu, August 28, 2003 (online,
  5. Database of natural forest reserves in Germany . Retrieved August 24, 2018.
  6. Third National Forest Inventory (2012) . Retrieved December 21, 2015.
  7. Natural forest reserves in Bavaria . Retrieved November 2, 2017.
  8. Lit. Federal Ministry for LFUW: Natural forest reserves in Austria. Graphic natural forest reserves per federal state , p. 16.
    Federal Research and Training Center for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape - Institute for Forest Growth and Silviculture: Results ,, as of January 1, 2015
  9. ^ Kurt Zukrigl: Natural forest reserves in Austria. In: ÖKOL. 5/2, 1983, Table 1 Natural forest reserves in Austria. P. 23 (full article p. 20–27, PDF on ZOBODAT )
  10. Natural forest reserves: Opportunity for forest owners , in The progressive farmer ,
  11. ^ The last primeval forests of Austria . In: , June 4, 2011, compensation section .
  12. Peter Weinfurter; Österreichische Bundesforste AG (Ed.): Chronicle 1925-2005. 80 years of federal forests. History of the Austrian Federal Forests. Purkersdorf 2005, Chapter 7.6.7 Natural forest reserves , p. 111 (pdf at ( Memento from April 30, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Natural forest reserve program in Austria , Federal Research and Training Center for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape (
  14. Lit. Federal Ministry for LFUW: Natural forest reserves in Austria. 9. Outlook. On the future of natural forest reserves , p. 21.
  15. forest reserves. In: . Retrieved February 17, 2020 .
  16. Forest reserves in Switzerland. (PDF; 839 kB) Report on the status at the end of 2018. July 31, 2019, accessed on February 17, 2020 .
  17. Overview: Selected literature on natural forest reserves , Federal Research and Training Center for Forests, Natural Hazards and Landscape.