- According to one, wilderness is a natural landscape largely unaffected by humans , which can be described by scientific parameters and delimited from cultural landscapes , cities, agricultural areas, forests , etc. In this sense, around a quarter to a third of the land surface can still be called wilderness.
- The second definition is related to a value judgment. According to this, an area is called wilderness if it is assigned the meaning of a counterworld to some cultural principle of order. The evaluation can be either positive or negative: derogatory z. B. as "untamed, untidy" nature in contrast to cultivated nature, enhancing z. B. as "unspoiled, innocent" primeval nature.
The term wilderness appeared for the first time in the 15th century in the Middle High German forms "wiltnisse", "wiltnis", "wiltnüsse" or "wiltnus" in German literature. From the 17th century onwards, the form of "wilderness" slowly took hold. The word meaning is derived from the adjective "wild", which appears for the first time in Old High German and Old Saxon of the 8th century as "wildi" and means "undeveloped", "untamed" or "foreign". The compound word “Wild-nis” means “undeveloped, uncultivated area with lush vegetation and untamed animals”.
The synonymous words in the other Germanic languages almost always contain the word component “wild”, which sounds very similar in most languages and is traced back to the ( reconstructed ) Germanic root * wilthiz or * wilþja- . German , English , Dutch : wild, Swedish , Danish : vild, Norwegian : vill, Icelandic : villtur.
Synonyms for wilderness are generally "seclusion", "deserted", " wasteland ", " wasteland " ( barren ( originally also "uninhabited", but also "undeveloped"). Today the word is mainly used to represent uninhabited landscapes such as “ steppe ”, “ desert ”, “ primeval forest ”, “ heath ”, “ moor ” and the like. Ä. used. In addition, wilderness also stands for terms with negative connotations such as “sterility”, “desolation”, “uselessness”, “banishment” or “lack of culture”.
Delimitation to the cultural landscapes
Due to the lack of a scientific definition of the term "wilderness", there are repeated debates in the sense of the assertion: "Aren't almost all wilderness areas actually anthropogenically influenced cultural landscapes?" This argument is often used when it comes to the preservation of " intact natural landscapes ". It is undisputed that traces of human economic activity can be found almost everywhere on earth. Nevertheless, from an ecological perspective, there are major differences between the permanently settled and inhabited ecumenism and the almost uninhabited and only locally used - i.e. near-natural - areas of the so - called subecumene (e.g. the rainforests on the Amazon, which are often mentioned in this context). A very broad concept of cultural landscape is used here , which is actually rarely used by experts.
Conclusion: “cultural landscape” is just as fuzzy and not fixed as the term wilderness. Ultimately, the ideological - philosophical question of the difference between man and nature is revealed here .
"How nature is and how it should be, technical cultures basically remain a mystery."
Definitions of wilderness in terms of nature conservation
Ever since a large wilderness area was first placed under protection with Yellowstone National Park in 1872, the need arose to define the term more precisely. As can be seen from the following definitions, ideas are very different in this regard.
Wilderness in the sense of Conservation International is defined as areas in which 70 or more percent of the original vegetation has been preserved, encompasses more than 10,000 square kilometers and in which fewer than five people per square kilometer live. (This definition includes 37 areas worldwide.)
International Union of Conservation Nature
The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) also defines wilderness less depending on the size of the area and more with regard to protected areas ( Wilderness Area IUCN Ib ):
"Wilderness is an extensive, original or slightly changed area that has retained its original character, has largely undisturbed habitat dynamics and biological diversity, in which there are no permanent settlements or other infrastructures with a serious impact and whose protection and management serve to enhance its original character. "
In New Zealand , wilderness is defined as uninhabited areas for which you “need at least two day's marches to cross”, which corresponds to 1,500–5,000 km².
The Wilderness Act of 1964 in the United States covers 20 square kilometers of unpopulated natural landscapes - or islands, which may be smaller. Wilderness Areas are dedicated by law by the US Congress . There are 757 (as of 2012) Wilderness Areas in 44 of the 50 US states and in Puerto Rico .
In February 2009, at the request of a number of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) , the European Parliament passed a (non-legally binding) resolution on the conservation of wilderness areas in Europe, which is to be integrated into the Natura 2000 nature conservation network . The NGOs then formed a working group (European Wilderness Working Group) to specify the recommendations that were concluded in 2012. This includes the following definition of wilderness:
“Wilderness areas are large, unchanged or only slightly changed natural areas that are dominated by natural processes and in which there is no human intervention, no infrastructure and no permanent settlements. They are protected and looked after in such a way that their natural state is preserved and they offer people the opportunity to have special spiritual and spiritual experiences of nature. " (European Wilderness Working Group, September 2011, translation by Bernhard Kohler. Program Director Biodiversity. WWF Austria )
After the PAN parks were taken over by the European Wilderness Society (EWS) in 2014, the EWS proposed that the minimum size of “real wilderness” in the core of such protected areas be set at 30 km². The surrounding areas act as a buffer zone to cultivated regions and should then develop into wilderness over time. Since there are only extremely few areas in Europe that meet the strict IUCN criteria for wilderness areas, the European Wilderness Working Group has proposed a further definition for so-called "wild areas":
“Wild regions are near-natural habitats, the development of which is predominantly dominated by natural processes. They are mostly smaller or more fragmented than wilderness areas, but can also be very large. The condition of their biotopes, processes and species composition often shows clear traces of previous human use and utilization, such as grazing, hunting, fishing, forestry, sporting activities or other consequences of human activities. "
The largest remaining wilderness areas of Western Europe are the Subökumene Fennoskandinaviens and Islands . If there are no marked hiking trails or tourist facilities in contiguous areas that are larger than 1000 km² and are more than 15 km away from roads or railway lines, one speaks in Sweden of "wilderness cores". After this strict definition there are still nine wilderness cores. They are located exclusively in the northernmost province of Norrbotten and make up 4.5% of the area of Sweden and 14.5% of Norrbotten. All other unpopulated areas of at least 10 km² (southern and central Sweden) or 20 km² (northern Sweden) that are not narrower than 1 km are referred to as “pathless areas”.
Western, Central, Southern and Eastern Europe
In the most densely populated countries in Europe (ecumenism), where original wilderness can practically only be found in the highest mountain regions (e.g. 4% of the Alps are still considered wilderness), the minimum areas are inevitably even smaller. NABU Germany, for example, considers at least 0.4 km² to be necessary for “new”, protected forest wilderness. The desired area size should, however, be at least 10 km². The question of the size of the area cannot currently be justified scientifically , but only politically . In 2015, on the basis of a research project, the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation set the minimum ecological and nature conservation requirements for forest ecosystems (which are considered wilderness areas for process protection) at 10 km² and for smaller ecosystems such as floodplains and moors at 5 km².
In Switzerland , areas that have not been used for more than 50 years and cover at least 6 km² are wilderness parks that are worthy of protection .
In order to classify the wilderness population, you need indicators of closeness to nature that allow an assessment of how much an ecosystem has been changed by human influences. The ecology makes use of various " hemerobia systems" here.
A group of 200 experts from the nature conservation organization Conservation International (CI, see above ) has calculated that in 2002 46% of the earth's land surface was still untouched and therefore worthy of protection wilderness. In 1996, CI was still 52%. The largest share is in rock, ice or desert regions that cannot be populated anyway. If you only look at the habitable regions, around 25% are still wild. The different standards for wilderness are also made clear by the fact that other organizations come to very different conclusions. According to National Geographic e.g. In 2008, for example, 17% of the ice-free earth's surface (including the oceans) was still without human intervention or signs of human activity, while the IUCN calculated only 10.9% of relatively untouched nature (as of 2003).
The least fragmented and largest unified wilderness region on earth is Antarctica. However, it consists almost exclusively of hostile ice and cold deserts. The arctic tundras and cold deserts are almost as big. Some of them are already fragmented to a certain extent, but they contain far more biomass. The third largest wilderness on earth are the boreal coniferous forests to the south. The biodiversity and the amount of biomass are much higher, but this large area is also much more fragmented and endangered. If you summarize the Nordic forests with the Arctic, they form by far the largest wilderness in the world, which mainly covers all of Alaska as well as large parts of Canada and Russia. Third place is the dry and largely hostile wilderness of the Sahara and Sahel countries. The Amazon jungle is a little more than half the size, making Brazil the third largest wilderness state. After Antarctica, Australia is the continent with the largest proportion of wilderness. Other countries that still have large wilderness areas are the USA, China, DR Congo, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Argentina and Saudi Arabia.
Worldwide only with a few exceptions are wilderness areas in the subtropical vegetation zones and in the deciduous forests of the warm temperate zone. The remnants of the North American and Asian steppes as well as the South American and African savannah landscapes, some of which are still significant, are also at great risk.
- For other areas, see → the following world map (note: without clicking, place the mouse pointer on a wilderness area on the world map and do not move it to see the name of the area).
Last of the wild
The comprehensive study Last of the wild - Version 2, published in 2005 by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) at Columbia University (New York), comes to a value of 16% “Most wild” (hereinafter translated as core wilderness ) and 47% “last of the wild” (hereinafter translated as wilderness character ) - without taking Antarctica into account.
It is not uncommon for publications to mention a proportion for which the area of the Antarctic is not included in the calculation basis. Unfortunately, this is often not recognizable. If you take the entire land area of the earth as a basis, you come to 22% core wilderness areas and 51% areas with wilderness character (see world map ).
- In a first step, the human influence on nature (HII - “Human Influence Index”) was determined and weighted using a simple point system. For this purpose, data on population density (0 to> 9.6 inh / km²), traffic routes (influence depending on distance, mostly <2 km, 2–15 km,> 15 km), artificially illuminated areas of the earth's surface (intensity 0 to> 89), location inside or outside urbanized areas, and type of land use.
- In a second step, the values determined were applied to the respective global biome based types to the different sensitivity to take into account various ecosystems. This value is referred to here as the “human footprint” (HFI) (not to be confused with the “ ecological footprint ”). The HFI was then based on a scale from 0 (completely natural) to 100 (completely overprinted by humans) .
- The last step was the definition of the categories “last of the wild” and “most wild”: The authors of the study determined all areas with an HFI of less than or equal to 10 in the first case and less than or equal to 1. During the second case the core wilderness areas are still almost unaffected, there may be settlements, traffic routes as well as agricultural or forestry areas in the surrounding "last-of-the-wild areas" between areas of largely unaffected natural landscapes (at least 5 km²). Nevertheless, the landscapes are still predominantly shaped by the original landscapes.
Intact Forest Landscapes
In relation to forest areas, the method of the human footprint index (see above) reaches its limits, since pristine primeval forests cannot be reliably differentiated from affected or destroyed forest areas in unpopulated regions due to normal satellite images. In order to localize the remaining forest wilderness on earth, Greenpeace created the study Intact Forest Landscapes in 2005/06 together with a consortium of internationally recognized scientists and organizations (including Global Forest Watch, a network of the World Resources Institute ) .
Special case Europe
A maximum of 18% of Europe can still be described as wilderness. Almost nine tenths of them are in the tundra and taiga of Northern Europe. Of these, in turn, more than two thirds are in northwest Russia. The wild landscapes in Iceland and Fennos Scandinavia are already clearly fragmented, but still meet the strict criteria of the IUCN. If you count Europe without Russia, max. 8% met the criteria of the Last of the wild study.
In the densely populated and anthropogenic European biomes outside of the northern calotte , only very small relict areas have a human footprint index of max. 10. These near-natural landscapes are mainly distributed in inaccessible mountain regions. Mostly these are areas that have not always remained untouched, but are merely in a largely wilderness-like state . The status of a “core wilderness” is only achieved by a single area in the southern western Carpathians (therefore <0.01% of Europe).
The University of Leeds has prepared the Review of status and conservation of wild land in europe study specifically for Europe (excluding Russia) . The methodology corresponds in principle to the study “Last of the wild” ; however, the consideration of the results has been adapted to the aforementioned special conditions in Europe. Instead of defining an absolute benchmark for untouched landscapes, it was decided in advance to locate the 10% of Europe that can best be described as wilderness (the world map shows the areas of this study for the ecumenical movement of Europe). In a global comparison, Europe without Russia only has a little more than 2% core wilderness.
According to a study by the WWF , 2 percent of Europe's forest area is currently in a natural state. Panek estimates that the proportion of primeval forest-like (intact) red beech forests in the total current beech forest area is far below 5% across Europe. In relation to the much larger area of 907,000 km², on which beech forest would grow without human intervention ( potential natural vegetation ), the proportion of beech primeval forest is only below 0.5%.
The Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) also estimates the share of wilderness areas in Germany at around 0.5% of the total area (= approx. 1800 km²). However, this is not the original wilderness, but mainly the core areas of the national parks , which have been left to their own devices since they were placed under protection. The potential for new (i.e. not original) wilderness in Germany is well over 3% of the federal terrestrial area, even with an ambitious protected area size (over 1,000 ha) and without a cutting infrastructure.
The wilderness areas are based on the results of the three aforementioned studies :
- The less influenced, near-natural wilderness landscapes are the areas with wilderness character of the “Last-of-the-wild study”. They have a “human footprint index” ≤ 10. (The exact areas of this category are part of the zoomable maps that can be called up via the "web links" of the respective region in the article → WWF-Ecoregion .)
- For the ecumenical movement of Europe excluding Russia, the “Top 10% wildest areas” of the study Review of the status and conservation of wild land in Europe were used for the map. (The proportions of the vegetation zones in the table remained unaffected.)
- The almost unaffected core wilderness shows areas with an HFI ≤ 1 in the case of unforested landscape types.
- In the potential forest areas, the primeval forest wilderness of the Intact Forest Landscapes was used instead .
|Landscape type / vegetation zone (based on "Atlas zur Biogeographie" by J. Schmithüsen)||Wilderness||min./max.||endangered||protected 2005|
|inland ice and cold deserts )Polar regions (=||approx. 95% -||100%||No||approx. 7%|
|lichen and moss tundra , dwarf shrub and meadow and forest tundra )Tundras (=||approx. 65% -||83%||low||approx. 15%|
|glaciers , mountain tundra , cold deserts , meadows and heaths )Alpine high mountain regions (=||approx. 58% -||82%||low||* approx. 18%|
|boreal , mountain and according to. Coastal coniferous forests )Tempered coniferous forests (=||approx. 28% -||63%||medium||approx. 14%|
|deciduous and coniferous forests and alluvial forests )Tempered foliage u. Mixed forests (= mixed||approx. 0.5% -||7%||extreme||** approx. 12%|
|forest , grass , shrub , dry steppes and salt meadows )Temperate steppes (=||approx. 4% -||28%||extreme||approx. 16%|
|hot and cold winter , highland deserts and steppes )Deserts and semi-deserts (=||approx. 37% -||71%||medium||approx. 10%|
|hard-leaf vegetation and dry forests )Subtropical dry vegetation (=||approx. 2% -||16%||extreme||approx. 9%|
|wet forests (= laurel, wet forests and sub-tropical rainforests )Subtropical||approx. 1% -||4%||extreme||** approx. 12%|
|Tropical dry forests||approx. 5% -||35%||extreme||approx. 13%|
|thorn bush, cactus , dry and moist savannas )Tropical savannas (=||approx. 8% -||24%||strong||approx. 13%|
|rain forests , cloud forests and tropical wet forests )Tropical wet forests (=||approx. 27% -||40%||medium||approx. 23%|
|total||approx. 32% -||52%||approx. 12%|
|*) = Proportion not only for the alpine part of the mountains, but for the entire mountain area
**) = proportion applies to the sum of the tempered foliage and Mixed forests plus subtropical wet forests
Hazards and protection
The current priority use of the remaining wilderness regions is the intensive exploitation of raw material reserves such as wood , crude oil or various metal ores as well as the conversion of the original vegetation cover to create new agricultural areas. The latter is primarily related to soy feed production in order to cover the increasing meat consumption of the world population and the cultivation of energy crops to replace the dwindling fossil fuels. Due to the often far-reaching destruction of nature, these forms of use should not only be viewed in the context of the “utility of the wilderness” , since the wilderness is converted into used land at this point and thus loses its “wild character” . The reduction in the remaining wilderness areas is proceeding at an alarming pace.
In order to evaluate the proportions of protected areas listed in the table, it must be taken into account that a large part of it does not actually enjoy any effective protection. Quite a few protected areas in developing countries are still exposed to destructive influences due to a lack of funds or the political will to implement the protection goals. In addition, the figures also include areas whose protection status provides for management measures or which are primarily used for recreation. Of course, such goals do not correspond to the wilderness idea.
Almost all of the world's large wilderness regions are home to indigenous peoples who have adapted to the special environmental conditions there since they were first settled. This adaptation caused a dependence on an intact environment, which for many peoples when they were subjugated by the Europeans was probably the most decisive fate. Four examples: The North American Plains Indians were deprived of their food source by the destruction of the bison herds. The progressive clearing of the South American rainforests is robbing the indigenous people of their habitat. Market economic constraints force the Scandinavian Sámi to have ever larger herds of reindeer, which in turn graze the tundras. Recently, the effects of climate change on the polar region threaten the existence of the Eskimo peoples.
Very few of these peoples still live exclusively from their traditional economy . However, where the original ecosystems are still intact and sufficiently large, a few indigenous peoples still use the wilderness extensively and adapted to the respective natural area by using the existing resources sustainably without destroying them. They act z. In some cases, they certainly affect the species composition, so that they are an essential part of the respective wilderness region as a landscape-changing factor. So are z. For example, the rainforests of South America are also a man-made landscape. However, the preservation of cultural identity varies greatly from people to people and is not a uniform feature for so-called " primitive peoples ".
Due to their thousands of years of experience, traditionally farming indigenous peoples have a natural interest in the integrity of their environment. However, some states do not recognize their rights to live or use various wilderness areas. Such interventions in the customary rights of the indigenous peoples, which are questionable under international law, are known, for example, from countries such as the USA , Canada , Brazil , Sweden or Russia . Often it concerns land law conflicts in the award of concessions for the exploitation of valuable resources to international corporations in areas that have never been legally assigned by the indigenous peoples. Since these people know the wilderness very well, environmental and human rights organizations such as the WWF or the Society for Threatened Peoples advise to respect the knowledge of the indigenous peoples and their traditional ways of life.
As a habitat for endangered animals and plants, the remaining wilderness areas play an outstanding role in maintaining biodiversity . The greatest benefit for humans lies primarily in their importance as the last intact “functional context” of the biosphere . This is particularly evident today, since anthropogenic climate change has threatened the stability of terrestrial communities. So produce z. B. the rainforests large amounts of oxygen and also bind large amounts of carbon dioxide . At the same time, they have a decisive influence on the water balance in the tropics . The storage of the highly climate-damaging methane gas in the permanently frozen peat deposits of the polar regions is just as important . Basically, intact natural areas guarantee healthy soil, clean water and clean air. In addition, a large number of still undiscovered substances is suspected, especially in the species-rich rainforests , which could be extremely beneficial in medicine or chemistry . However, the use of these resources presupposes intact ecosystems , which unfortunately continue to be degraded at a rapid pace .
Another, not to be neglected “use value” of the wilderness is undoubtedly also its importance as a “ regeneration area ” for modern humans, because it exerts a great fascination on many people. Therefore, the term “wilderness” in advertising, television (e.g. animals in front of the camera ) and literature is often associated with a thirst for adventure and originality. In doing so, however, a romanticized picture is usually built up, which can quickly bring the inexperienced visitor who wants to experience the wilderness up close and personal into dangerous situations. In particular, the orientation in pathless terrain places special demands on the visitor. Real wilderness is not a Garden of Eden , but rather a natural space “which is able to endanger the physical existence of people - depending on their abilities” (quotation from Herwig Decker). If you want to travel to pathless wilderness areas, you should therefore opt for a guided tour.
Criteria not covered
All of the above characterizations of wilderness areas only relate to the factors settlement , vegetation and use, so that it cannot be inferred that the natural relationships have remained completely unchanged. In particular, changes in the composition of the animal world are not taken into account, although the number and range of species of animals have a significant influence on the appearance of the landscape. This becomes particularly clear when looking at Central Europe , where the change in the species spectrum due to human influences has not only occurred since the 20th century. As early as the Middle Ages , the large grazing animals aurochs , elk , wild horses and bison were exterminated or decimated to insignificant remnants. Later stocks were decimated or the great predators bear , wolf and lynx were exterminated , so that there has been no question of a natural composition for a long time. A similarly dramatic decimation of the animal world is currently taking place above all in the tropical wilderness areas, as one can infer from the reports of the major nature conservation organizations everywhere. Other negative influences on the living world of the wild that are not taken into account come from air pollution . For example, here plays the acidification of the soil or the fertilizing effect of nitrogen inputs near industrial centers involved. The greatest changes in nature , however, will be caused by global climate change , which will lead to dramatic weather extremes such as floods and droughts as well as a shift of the climatic and vegetation zones to the north.
Already at the end of the 19th century there were voices calling for the preservation or restoration of a "natural state" for some areas. During this time the last forests threatened to be charred for metal processing and the first nature conservation associations were formed.
Today, when there is practically no primary wilderness in Central Europe any more, the idea from the 1990s was taken up to leave suitable areas to their own devices and not to intervene in the care that nature conservation had planned until then. Forest is the potential natural vegetation of most of Europe . In Germany, one of the pioneers of the idea of secondary wilderness was Hans Bibelriether , long-time director of the Bavarian Forest National Park , who campaigned for the development of new primeval forests in the park. In addition to scientific reasons for researching natural processes, Bibelriether wanted to arouse awareness of the wilderness as an “undestroyed natural treasure” against the increasing alienation from nature.
A large number of protected natural areas in Central Europe are not wilderness, but formerly extensively used cultural landscapes such as heaths , mountain pasture areas , open land areas or hat forests . These habitats require care in order to be preserved. Without these measures, they would become overgrown and eventually turn into forests. On the other hand, it has also been shown that, apart from a few island-like areas, primary forests in Europe are lost and that forests left to their own devices can only fall into an “original state” of whatever kind in exceptional cases. Therefore one has abandoned too strict fixation on the idea of untouchedness and is developing concepts of landscape maintenance and integrated cultural landscape and secondary wilderness areas.
Is a world where the man withdraws from the landscape area, often desertification or even deserts to observe education. This is a condition which - although exactly according to the wilderness concept - is viewed as undesirable or threatening. Whether these processes can be interpreted as "natural" has not yet been determined in the context of climate change / global warming .
As a reaction to the “wilderness” movement of the late 19th century, there have been legally protected “ wilderness areas ” ( see above ) in the USA since 1964 , which comprise around 4.6% of the total American area (= 443,000 km²) (as of 2012 ). By far the largest areas of it are in the state of Alaska .
Since 1997 there has also been a protected area category in Europe that was specially set up for wilderness (development) areas, the " PAN Parks " and "PAN Park Wilderness Partners". In April 2013, this included 7670 km² of areas within existing large protected areas, which corresponds to 0.08% of the area of Europe. In 2014 the “European Wilderness Society” (based in Austria) took on the leading role in European wilderness protection. It replaces the now insolvent PAN Parks Foundation and has taken over its certified wilderness areas into its portfolio. On the EWS website, the wilderness areas are divided into three groups: “Certified Wilderness Areas”, “Wilderness Areas” and “Potential Wilderness Areas in Europe”. All groups are united in the European Wilderness Network.
On a global level, primary wilderness areas were grouped into the highest protection level (categories Ia and Ib) as part of the IUCN's category determination for internationally valid protected area standards. Around 1.1% of the earth's land area fell under these protection categories in 2005.
Although all major nature conservation organizations - u. a. CI thanks to several million donations - striving to protect wilderness worldwide, only about 7% of these areas were actually protected in 2002.
The concept of a wilderness area is always based on that of a contiguous area .
Mario Broggi, head of the Swiss Federal Research Institute for Forests, Snow and Landscape (WSL) has created a definition that is independent of size , which is referred to in the literature as the "smallest, common wilderness denominator":
"Wilderness is understood as that space in which we consciously refrain from any use and design, in which natural processes can take place without humans thinking and directing, in which the unplanned and unforeseen can develop."
The term process protection , coined by the German forest ecologist Knut Sturm, is often equated in the discussion with wilderness development . Random, natural processes of disturbance ecology such as storms , fire or pests , which can act unhindered in the wilderness, play an important role in this nature conservation strategy (quote Sturm: "Disturbances and competition must be allowed to work"). However, in the original sense, this only applied to limited, mosaic-like sub-areas in commercial forests. This means that the natural dynamics of wilderness (read: primeval forest) islands in the commercial forest should be used.
The newer definition no longer only extends to forests, and a distinction is now made between segregative and integrative process protection . With segregative process protection, the focus is on the completely uncontrolled natural development into wilderness-like habitats. In contrast, with integrative process protection, an assessment of the natural processes takes place, which are permitted or prevented according to the consciously formulated goals of a particular landscape development.
These concepts are implemented in protected areas with the declaration of core zones, which should remain completely untouched, and marginal and buffer zones, in which anthropogenic influences are intercepted, or in various concepts of protected area classes (closed areas, restricted areas, temporary regulations). The European PAN parks provide an exemplary example of this protection strategy .
This standard can also be found in the German Federal Nature Conservation Act : § 24 (2) "National parks aim to ensure the most undisturbed flow of natural processes in their natural dynamics in the majority of their area." In Germany, all but two national parks achieve these strict standards Conditions. However, it will be many decades before we can actually speak of wilderness again in a German national park. In other countries one does not necessarily orientate oneself to the IUCN categories. The national parks of the Netherlands , for example, are subject to much weaker protection criteria, so that even less can be said here of the development of secondary wilderness.
Other protection concepts
As early as the 1970s, out of scientific interest, Germany began to designate small, near-natural forest islands as long-term test areas ( natural forest reserves , natural forest cells , total reserves ) which were left to their undisturbed biological development. There is no forest use and direct impairment. These protected areas are an example of the strategy of integrative process protection ( see above ) at state level . They are named differently depending on the federal state . Many state forest administrations like to refer to these reserves as the "primeval forests of tomorrow". However, due to the small area size averaging around 0.37 km² (based on a total of 719 reserves of this type) and only 0.3 percent of the forest area in Germany, this designation is certainly too euphoric. Experts put the minimum size of natural forest reserves at 0.5–1.0 km².
In the other types of protected areas ( nature reserves , FFH areas , bird sanctuaries , protected biotopes according to the respective state law, etc.), process protection is usually less important. The protection provisions are determined individually and often aim to preserve anthropogenic, species-rich natural landscapes such as As pagans and other open land habitats that are without care measures - would turn forest habitats - mostly species-poor ( s o.. ).
Wilderness development areas
For a long time it was assumed in Central Europe that the entire land area, except for a few moors , floodplains and mountains , was covered by forest . After extensive pollen analyzes in different soil layers, some scientists have been advocating the theory since the 1980s that larger parts of Central Europe were not so densely forested, but rather interspersed with open grassland areas. In addition to storms and droughts , the explanation for this is also herds of large herbivores that keep the forest short - especially in poor lowland locations (see megaherbivore hypothesis and mosaic cycle concept ). In the Netherlands and Belgium in particular , these theories are taken into account and researched when restoring “new wilderness”. An outstanding example of this is the Oostvaardersplassen area in Holland, where large herds of red deer and so-called image breeding of wild horses ( Koniks ) and cattle ( Heck cattle ) live in an abandoned coastal landscape . Human intervention is limited to the hunting of sick animals and removal of dead animals in order to replace the missing predators . According to the ideas of the Dutch nature conservationists, the area should be significantly enlarged and finally expanded into a networked network of similar protected areas. a. could reach to the lip . The conditions on the Lower Rhine are naturally favorable, and there are also enough supporters of the mega-herbivore theory in Germany. In the publications of the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) one speaks in this context of wilderness development area, for which the following concept was formulated: "In Germany there will be again large wilderness areas in the future (target corridor 2% of the total area of Germany by 2020), in which development processes run naturally and undisturbed and the further evolution of species and communities can take place ”. In the Netherlands, the term nature development area is used.
The first examples of this nature conservation strategy can be found in the NSG Königsbrücker Heide and the Hutewald project in Solling. Large herds of wild grazing animals require large “ wild pastures ”, so that the national parks, former military training areas and post-mining landscapes are particularly suitable. The recommendation of a study by the Berlin Institute for Population and Development to the Brandenburg state parliament to completely depopulate already sparsely populated areas with the help of emigration bonuses and to convert them into ecologically and touristic wilderness areas shows how seriously the overgrowth of large landscapes is taken . Similar projects outside of Europe are a Pleistocene Park in Northeast Siberia and the Mahazat-as-Sayd Conservation Area in the Arabian Desert .
Wilderness in a cultural context
In early (arable) cultures, the cultivated land only formed islands in a large wilderness. Where the cultivated land grew together into a coherent area over time, the situation was reversed. The remaining wilderness islands were originally called forest . On the one hand, many rulers secured extensive hunting grounds, which were not allowed to be reclaimed and therefore retained their wilderness character for a long time. On the other hand, there were border forests along disputed borders such as the Sachsenwald ( Limes Saxoniae ) between the Saxon and Slavic settlement areas in today's Schleswig-Holstein . Such border wilderness was artificially preserved in some places through the devastation of settlements in decades or centuries of small wars. So was z. For example, the south (later Masuria ) and east of the Prussian order were initially deliberately depopulated and only repopulated after a contractual border setting ( Peace of Melno Sea ). Such areas were generally referred to as wilderness on the eastern borders of the German-speaking area . This is how the medieval “Bauske Wilderness” in the Baltic States was created in connection with the Lithuanian trains of the Teutonic Order .
The evaluation of wildness
The venerable dictionary of the Brothers Grimm provides information about the meaning of the word in historical times. There it says z. For example: “the basic meaning is more than what today's usage suggests. the word denotes (...) in a very general way 'wildness, something wild', both competent and objective (...) foreign to the old language is today's pictorial use of wilderness for 'lush abundance, inhibiting need, spiritual confusion'. “The common, older idea almost only seems to notice the unfriendly features of the picture.” For example, Luther speaks of “cruel wilderness” or uses the term for “confusion”, “run wild” and “get lost”, while Schambach equates wilderness and anarchy .
The originally negative use of the term shows that the aversion to the wilderness is deeply rooted in us. With our ancestors, the wilderness was the counterpart to culture : the untamed, dangerous and uncontrollable primeval nature, the “uninhabitable”, which at best only interferes with man-made culture, ecumenism .
In the Age of Enlightenment , the term was increasingly positive. It can be found in expressions such as “wild and romantic landscape” or “wild mountain world” as the epitome of natural beauty or the delightful and adventurous as well as in the concept of the “ noble wild ” as the embodiment of the lost garden of Eden in the sense of Rousseau . These ideas are continued in the American Romantics declining Wilderness movement that sees the wilderness as a model of "free", similar to the modern conservation ideas .
To this day, the term is based on the ambiguity described (for example: torrent as the untamed, unspoilt and flood-prone river; on the other hand, white water as a sporty, challenging ambience). The historian Roderick Nash sees the noun "wilderness" as a misleading reification of the adjective "wild". He writes: “There is no wilderness as an actual, material object. The term describes a quality (...) that creates a certain mood or feeling in a certain individual. ”In fact, the use of the word today is very ambiguous. While one expresses his aversion to an overgrown garden, the other speaks respectfully of the " wisdom of the wilderness". The ecologist Wolfgang Scherzinger described this contradiction in the wilderness concept as “the field of tension between awe and fear, amazement and shuddering, enthusiasm and consternation, longing and fear, security and helplessness”.
Today's meaning of the term and the wilderness debate
Currently, the role of the wilderness under the heading wilderness debate - in the English-speaking world as a wilderness discussed - debate. It concerns a widespread change in the perception of forests and mountains as threatened, sensitive ecosystems worthy of protection to a downright longing, a desire for wilderness as a cultural phenomenon. The necessary active restoration of wilderness through human intervention appears paradoxical, which is expressed in titles such as “In the next forest everything will be different” or “Wh (h) re wilderness”. In addition, aesthetic points come into play - primeval forests are accepted and challenged. ( Bark beetle infestation, windthrow areas and forest fires should be eliminated as quickly as possible.)
One of the main motivations to visit the wilderness or to formulate it as a model in nature conservation lies in its contrast to modern civilization as well as in experiences of freedom in the broadest sense. Three aspects of freedom are distinguished in German sources. On the one hand, the freedom of the forest of the conservative Wilhelm Heinrich Riehl , who, within the framework of an organic-conservative worldview, characterized the forest as the people's fountain of youth . On the other hand, there is an enlightening-liberal perspective of emancipatory freedom and autonomy in the wilderness and nature, such as the third aspect, the romantic inner feeling of freedom. Here, the Central European wilderness concept quite different from the concept of wilderness older Wilderness debate in the US. The reasons for this are, among other things, the decreasing demand for land in agriculture and forestry, which makes decisions about the naturalization of numerous areas necessary.
From a philosophical point of view, the term wilderness and death expresses the comparatively short life span of humans in the wilderness debate . We can only accompany long-term developments in nature on an episodic basis. During the bark beetle discussion in the Bavarian Forest, people took to the streets who would never have done this for other concerns, with statements such as “What good will it be for us if a new forest will emerge in 70 years. We don't have any more of it. ”Subsequently, the possibility of being able to die in the wilderness is perhaps the strongest resistance in trying to accept the wilderness. Real wilderness is a natural area that is capable of endangering the physical existence of people - depending on their abilities. For everyone, wilderness begins where they - consciously or unconsciously and depending on their personal disposition - feel that their lives are in danger.
A systematic analysis of today's “longing for wilderness” based on ideas and cultural history with a distinction (1) between pre-Enlightenment, Enlightenment and Enlightenment-critical wilderness ideas as well as (2) a characterization of the current meanings of the wilderness types mountains, jungle, wild river and urban wastelands deliver hatred u. a.
The environmental historian William Cronon regards the idea of untouched wilderness as an ideal of people who never had to live directly in and from their environment. He cites American history: The natives had already shaped their environment so that one could no longer speak of untouched . Some conservationists saw it as an inappropriate moral position in the scientific discussion and accused him of anthropocentrism . He would give humans too high a position in the hierarchy of life and overestimate their role in the pre-Columbian era. This is counterproductive for efforts to protect the wilderness. However, Cronon's intention is not aimed at the role of humans in the past, but rather at the future of nature conservation: In his view, a categorical separation of humans and nature is a dangerous ideology that would alienate and prevent humans even more from nature. to develop an ethically and ecologically correct, sustainable use of the wilderness. With this in mind, Cronon was appointed to the board of directors of The Wilderness Society , which cares for the conservation of America's wilderness areas.
Potential for conflict
Wilderness protection and development has great potential for conflict both in public and in academia, which is due, among other things, to different views and evaluations of wilderness.
Already with the etymology of the term “wilderness” ( see above ) it became clear that the negative meaning is deeply rooted in us. Many “un-words” such as unsightly, neglected, unpredictable, unproductive or untidy are associated with wilderness. Since time immemorial man has endeavored to tame and cultivate the wilderness . Protection of the wilderness has only been used for a relatively short time. When it comes to areas in distant countries, the population is usually positive. In direct confrontation, however, the old aversion quickly breaks down. One example is the months-long tumult among the residents of the Bavarian Forest National Park when the bark beetle increased explosively due to the large amount of dead wood in the forest . Since wilderness development cannot be planned and is subject to constant, unpredictable change, it requires a great deal of trust in nature to accept such developments. “Anyone who really accepts the development of the wilderness must accept the bark beetle and the black moth as well as wolf , lynx or bison .” In order to achieve this, the needs and ideas of the population should be taken into account at an early stage. In Switzerland, people have learned from the problems in Bavaria and determined the range of opinions of as many residents and potential users as possible when designating wilderness areas. Interestingly, most of the Swiss agreed with the typical features of the wild in scientific positions, although on the other hand they wanted hiking trails, fire pits, and visitor parking. The areas should therefore be allowed to run wild, but not completely closed to human (leisure) use. In order to meet the wishes of the population, it would be advisable to divide the areas into differently protected zones, as is known from national parks . Austria offers an example of such zoning with the Dürrenstein wilderness area .
In the ranks of nature conservationists and scientists, there are also some concerns about wilderness protection, provided that this is understood as an absolute "non-intervention":
- Most of the open land biotopes in Central Europe require maintenance in order to preserve the respective range of species. When the wilderness developed on open land sites, some particularly valuable species that had to be kept open were lost in terms of nature conservation. An effective addition and expansion of process protection would be (year-round) grazing e.g. B. with semi-wild farm animals (e.g. Galloways ) or remaining wild animals (e.g. bison ). These animals can keep areas open and thus secure them without constant care work. At the same time they create numerous special biotopes (e.g. sand pits), on which numerous rare and endangered animal and plant species are dependent. As a rule, however, these large herbivores need a fence, which may be due to the wilderness idea of many protagonists - v. a. in Central Europe - would be difficult to unite, although, for example, the Serengeti, as one of the epitome of intact wilderness, is completely fenced off.
- Wilderness development is not necessarily synonymous with greater biodiversity . Process protection ( see above ) leads at least to well-nutrient-supplied , Central European locations i. d. Usually first to a mass reproduction of already common species (e.g. fireweed , nettles , blackberries , bracken , birches ). Even in many forest types, systems with few niches can persist for many years. Only when the volume of dead wood grows can a significant contribution to biodiversity protection be expected. Since this process v. a. takes a long time, but many species are acutely endangered, the question arises whether the designation in Central Europe away from naturally dynamic areas (e.g. floodplains), due to which disturbance regime many rare and endangered species find habitats, to alleviate the endangerment situation of many Living beings can contribute in the medium term.
There has been a professional debate about the pros and cons of wilderness not only since the proposal by the Berlin Institute for wilderness development in large parts of the state of Brandenburg . As part of the development of the national biodiversity strategy (NBS) for wilderness areas, the federal government has set a target of 2% of the terrestrial land area (around 714,000 ha). The goal is defined quantitatively in the NBS and is advocated , for example, by the Zoological Society . The focus is on "letting nature run" ("letting nature be nature"). This approach was initially criticized by some ecologists who advocated the designation of wilderness in disturbed landscape sections, as further co-evolutionary processes ensure more species richness. The use of semi-wild grazing animals in wilderness areas was also advocated, as these species can prepare initial habitats for others (e.g. dung, dead wood by peeling, sand pits). The argument was made with the limited access to land for nature conservation, according to which a large-scale national project such as the wilderness goal of the NBS must also generate the best possible added value for the endangered flora and fauna. Initially, this argument was hardly taken into account. At the beginning of 2020, the Scientific Advisory Board for Forest Policy and the Scientific Advisory Board for Biodiversity and Genetic Resources at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture published a report which identifies these points in terms of content and which also demonstrates the effectiveness of the biodiversity protection of wilderness. a. sees in disturbed habitats.
In the discussion about “new wilderness” there are certainly good reasons for and against the details of the corresponding concepts. The fundamental question, however, is whether humans are ready to recognize a “fundamental right of nature” or to value their ideas of nature more highly. The American ecologist Aldo Leopold formulated this philosophy drastically:
"Wilderness is a rejection of human arrogance."
“Do we want to preserve a snapshot of man-made landscape forever or do we want to protect nature itself? (...) We should (...) again show the courage to go into the wilderness and not allow ourselves to be fobbed off with a few ' biotopes ', as landscape salmon, so to speak. Rather, the nature reserves should be embedded as pearls in a landscape that we are generally more decent about. So in the future we need nature conservation over the entire area. And we need a touch of wilderness again in our country so that we don't completely detach ourselves from nature. That means some corrections in our way of thinking: (This also includes) the admission by us conservationists ourselves that some care mania ultimately corresponds to the anthropocentric wishful thinking to preserve nature as we would like it to be. "
The American writer Edward Abbey wrote in Desert Solitaire:
“[...] Wilderness is not a luxury, but a need of the human spirit, as vital as water and good bread. A civilization that destroys the little that is left of the wilderness, the sparse, the primal, cuts itself off from its origins and betrays the principles of civilization. "
“But the love of the wilderness is more than a hunger for what is beyond our control; it is an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth that produces and nourishes us, the only home we will ever know, the only paradise that we need - if we had the eyes to see. "
Henry David Thoreau , the American writer, Unitarian , philosopher and co-founder of Transcendentalism was a strong advocate of the wilderness and called on them to preserve as publicly accessible land. In his essay Walking , he describes wilderness as a treasure that must be preserved rather than plundered:
"I would like to say a word about nature, for absolute freedom and wildness, as it stood out against a freedom and merely civil culture - to see people as residents, or a part or piece of nature, instead of a member of a society."
“Life is wildness. The wildest is the liveliest. "
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