Biodiversity: Compensatory areas in transition - BioAusgleich

Compensation areas in transport infrastructure projects in the context of climate and landscape change

Problem statement

Motorway and highway projects regularly lead to interventions in nature and the landscape. To compensate for these interventions, compensatory measures must be implemented. These measures aim to compensate for the significant impairment of the performance and functioning of the natural balance and the landscape appearance caused by the projects.

However, in none of the three countries involved in the project (Germany, Austria, Switzerland), there is a consistent procedure for the planning, protection, maintenance, and control of compensation areas, which means that the long-term protection of the measures is often lacking. Controls and evaluations of success are not carried out uniformly. These circumstances make the implementation of compensation regulations and measures very complex in practice. Finally, the lack of generally applicable standards and guidelines for compensation measures also leads to a lack of consistency in implementation to be able to guarantee long-term compensation.


The main objective of the project is to develop proposals on how the planning, protection, maintenance, and control of compensation areas for transport infrastructure projects can be improved in the future, taking into account changes in the landscape and the climate. For this purpose, the broad field of compensation measures is to be summarized in a cross-national presentation. In addition, recommendations for action and implementation are to be formulated. The documentation of practical examples provides indications of the effectiveness and sustainability of compensation measures implemented to date.

The main focus of the IOER contribution is the analysis of the German legal basis for the impact mitigation regulation in highway construction as well as a comparative analysis of the legal framework in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. From this, suggestions for the further development of the legal basis for the impact mitigation regulation and its enforcement are to be obtained.


The project goals and tasks are to be achieved using various methods. This includes in particular a desktop analysis, which forms the basis for further work. Thereby, the current status quo will be described. The desktop analysis is primarily carried out by literature research, which includes the description of the current laws, the relevant jurisprudence (national and European), and the literature with regard to the legal analysis.

The current state of practice is surveyed by qualitative interviews. Institutions from administration and nature conservation, transport infrastructure operators, planning offices, and other relevant stakeholders will be interviewed. The interview guidelines on which the surveys are based will be coordinated between the project partners in a first step for each work package, thus ensuring standardized processing and evaluation of the results across all countries.

In addition, real case studies will be used to practically illustrate the essential factors concerning compensation measures. The case studies originate from the partners' own long-term project experience as well as from the stakeholders.
The processing is carried out by an interdisciplinary and international project team from practice and science, which includes expertise from the fields of ecology, landscape planning, and jurisprudence.


Effectively planned and managed compensation areas lead to a win-win situation for infrastructure operators and biodiversity. Infrastructure operators receive long-term planning and cost security while biodiversity in the areas is effectively preserved. It is important to meet the challenges of the future with regard to climate and landscape change through long-term planning that takes into account the likely projections. In this way, the compensation areas should be secured and preserved as a long-term investment.

A look at the legal bases in Germany, Austria and Switzerland shows that in all three countries there is an obligation to compensate for interventions in nature and the landscape. While this is regulated at federal level in Germany and Switzerland, in Austria it can be found in the nature conservation laws of the federal states. In all three countries, interventions must be avoided or reduced as far as possible and, if this is not possible, compensated or replaced. The payment of compensation, if regulated at all (as in Germany and some Austrian federal states), is only a last resort. As far as taking climate change into account when determining compensation measures is concerned, development is still in its infancy in all three countries. However, interviews with practitioners have shown that the issue is already being taken into account, for example with regard to the selection of heat-tolerant tree species for compensation measures. In the event that compensation measures fail due to climate change (e.g. a newly created pond dries up), it is generally possible to make adjustments in agreement with the nature conservation authority. In the event of significant changes, however, this requires an amendment to the planning approval decision.

The Leibniz Institute of Ecological Urban and Regional Development is jointly funded by the federal government and the federal states.

FS Sachsen

This measure is co-financed by tax funds on the basis of the budget approved by the Saxon State Parliament.