World Heritage Properties in Germany
With its ratification of the World Heritage Convention, Germany has undertaken to conserve its natural and cultural properties which have significance for mankind as a whole. It has also undertaken to propose properties of “outstanding universal value” for inscription on the World Heritage List.
A glance at the current World Heritage List shows that in the efforts to protect world heritage both globally and in Germany, there is an imbalance between cultural and natural properties. Of the 46 World Heritage properties in Germany, only three are a Natural World Heritage property: Messel Pit Fossil Site, Wadden Sea and Ancient Beech Forests. The other 43 are cultural properties, such as Cologne Cathedral, Muskauer Park / Park Muzakowski or the Zollverein Coal Mine Industrial Complex in Essen and the Cathedral of Naumburg.
More intensive efforts to protect natural properties
In 2004, a research study commissioned by the Federal Agency for Nature Conservation (BfN) was carried out to identify natural properties which might potentially be suitable for nomination as UNESCO World Heritage in Germany. The natural properties identified through the study were screened to determine their prospects of success in the event of nomination. The study concluded that “serial nominations” have far greater prospects of success. Serial nominations comprise several individual component parts, and can be prepared by several countries working together. This option is particularly important for natural properties in Europe. Due to intensive settlement, many natural habitats here are highly fragmented and their global significance is only apparent when viewed in terms of Europe as a whole. In the comparative study, numerous natural properties were evaluated. The study identified Germany’s beech forests as natural assets of “outstanding universal value”, primarily due to the diversity of the distribution forms and types of beech forests. German beech forests are especially important in that respect, and so the success prospects of a nomination of German beech forests as part of a serial European nomination were examined in more detail in a feasibility study carried out in 2006. As a result, in February 2007, five German beech forest areas were proposed for future nomination to the World Heritage List. The planned German beech forest cluster should be regarded as enhancing the “Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians” Natural World Heritage property.
On 7 July 2017, the UNESCO Committee extended the existing World Heritage Site "Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and the Ancient Beech Forests of Germany” in Krakow. 63 beech forests in 10 European countries were added to the World Heritage List. The extended World Heritage Site now bears the name "Ancient and Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians and Other Regions of Europe".
It almost completely represents the ongoing post-glacial expansion history of the beech forest, including its glacial refuge areas.
The World Heritage Site currently comprises 78 unique beech forest areas in 12 countries, making it the largest transnational World Heritage Site on an area of 92,000 hectares. Today, the World Heritage of Europe’s Beech Forests connects 12 European countries with a common goal: To preserve the globally unique beech forests with all their natural biological diversity as a heritage of humankind.