Report 2012

Grassland Loss in Germany
Grassland loss in Germany in the last decade:


Grassland in Germany consists mainly of meadows and pastures on sites that are often steep, wet or moist or have sensible shallow soils. Due to these site conditions grassland often is also of very high significance for plant and animal species as well as for many habitat types. Moreover the grassland use on these soils serves not only for biodiversity protection but also for water protection, for the prevention of soil erosion and for climate protection (especially on organic and wet soils).


Data on the grassland distribution show a very strong decline over the last years. In the seven years between 2003 and 2010 grassland has declined on average by 3.8 %; since 1990 the grassland declined up to 30 % in some of the German federal states (Data study ifls & vTI 2011 & 2012). Beside this quantitative loss the quality loss is even more severe: within 5 years the mapped grassland habitats protected under the EU Habitats Directive declined by 20 % on average, in some areas to more than 50 % (NABU 2012). The reasons have been analysed: in over 80 % of the cases intensive agriculture is responsible either through fertilization or a more intensive, including cutting or grazing, or through a combination of these reasons.


In respect of biodiversity the quantitative and qualitative losses of grassland resp. high nature value grassland led to a strong decline of the populations of farmland birds: for example the population index of Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago) decreased by more than 65% and the population of Black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa) by more than 40% (NABU 2012).



NABU (BirdLife Partner in Germany) strongly promotes the following for the future:

  • there must be an absolute ban of ploughing grassland, except on sites that are not vulnerable to conversion to arable land; grassland maintenance must come under the EU- Cross Compliance scheme and  must be applied to all grassland sites;
  • maintaining high biodiversity quality needs sufficient targeted agri-environmental contracts for farmers (to make maintenance attractive), good advice and education (e.g. with farm management plans) and a dense control.


There is evidence that a combination of legal provisons, adequate control and targeted agri-environmental support and advice measures can deliver for the conservation of grassland and its related biodiversity and other resources values. This has been shown in several areas in Germany, for example in the Federsee region (a Natura 2000 site in Southern Germany; EU 2003) – where no severe decline neither in quantity nor in quality of the grassland habitats can be observed.

Further reading:

European Commission (2003):  LIFE for Natura 2000.


IflS & vTI (2012): Instruments of effective grassland protection. Powerpoint presentation in Berlin, summarizing results from IflS & vTI (2011)


IflS & vTI (2011): Vorschläge zur Ausgestaltung von Instrumenten für einen effektiven Schutz von Dauergrünland. – Detailed study, Frankfurt / Braunschweig, 108 pages.


NABU (2012): Defizitanalyse Natura 2000 – Situation von artenreichem Grünland. (German study on species rich grassland / Natura2000-grassland). NABU Berlin, in preparation, available from autumn 2012 under



NABU, Naturschutzbund Deutschalnd (BirdLife partner in Germany)

Florian Schöne, Florian.Schoene(at)


Institut für Agrarökologie und Biodiversität (IFAB)

Rainer Oppermann oppermann(at)




Population index for the Black-tailed Godwitt in Germany

Population index for the Black-tailed Godwitt in Germany