GNF - 2nd Project Meeting Learning for Lakes

Economic Development and Lake Management






Topic of the Meeting:

Radolfzell, Germany


8–12 October 2012


Economic Development and Lake Management


Project Implementation

The second project meeting took place in Radolfzell at Lake Constance, Germany. It was organised by the German partner organisation Global Nature Fund in cooperation with authorities and partners on site (International Lake Constance Conference, Lake Constance Foundation and others).


Lake Constance (German: Bodensee) is a lake on the Rhine at the northern foot of the Alps, and consists of three bodies of water: the Obersee ("upper lake"), the Untersee ("lower lake"), and a connecting stretch of the Rhine, called the Seerhein. The lake is situated in Germany, Switzerland and Austria near the Alps. Specifically, its shorelines lie in the German federal states of Bavaria (Bayern) and Baden-Wuerttemberg, the Austrian federal-state of Vorarlberg, and the Swiss cantons of Thurgau and St. Gallen. The Rhine flows into Lake Constance from the south following the Austro-Swiss frontier. Lake Constance is an important source of drinking water: 180,000,000 cubic metres drinking water is provided yearly to 4.5 million people in Switzerland, Austria and Germany.


The Lake Constance region is very densely populated  (3 - 5 million inhabitants) and a very famous tourism destination (more than 25 million overnight stays and 30 million single day guests a year).


Basic Information

  • 536 sq. km surface area
  • 254 m maximum depth
  • 90 m average depth
  • 69 km longest distance Bregenz - Stein
  • 273 km shore line around the lake


Flora and Fauna

  • several endemic plants (ice age relicts)
  • 250,000 wintering birds (individuals)
  • 412 bird species
  • 45 fish species


Current conservation topics

  • Land use (organic and integrated farming, building development)
  • Traffic development / road building
  • Sustainable Tourism
  • Protection of protected areas
  • Regeneration of reed belts and floodplain forests
  • Landscape conservation• Environmental education
  • Creation of political awareness


Nature Conservation at Lake Constance, Dr. Thomas Schaefer, Global Nature Fund

This first presentation introduced some important facts about Lake Constance (flora and fauna, weather, etc.) as well as its main problems (eutrophication in 1950s, urbanization, increasing tourism, arable crops…) and conservation topics.


Cooperation in the International Lake Constance Region, Thomas Radke, Internationale Bodensee Konferenz (IBK)

This input explained the region’s main challenges, priority areas and socio-economic background, focusing on examples of cross-border cooperation, institutions and projects of the International Lake Constance-Conference (Internationale Bodensee Konferenz IBK), such as the Interreg IV project. Mr. Radke also showed IBK’s goals, structure and bases for cooperation, providing examples of different projects developed by IBK’s commissions, such as the day-ticket EuregioBodensee, the International Lake Constance University, the Statistics Platform, the Vier Länder Region Bodensee brand, etc.


Tourism Development in the Lake Constance Region, Simone Strauf, University of St. Gallen

This presentation provided a spatial definition of Lake Constance as a tourist destination, identifying the core region, the different perceptions from Switzerland and Germany, and some key facts and figures about tourism in the region: popularity, number of hotel beds and overnight stays, origin and type of visitors, length of stays, tourist offers, etc. The economic importance of tourism was highlighted and quantified, and some of the main challenges were presented.


Site Visits

NABU Conservation Area Wollmatinger Reed


Visitor Centre

NABU launch concept for new visitor centre. This huge new centre will be on the main route and will use reeds for insulation, solar energy and serve seasonal, regional organic food in the café.

There will be a miniature reconstruction of the lake and it will be easily accessible for all the family. This successful centre will attract up to 80,000 visitors per year.



Lake Constance is fed by the Rhine and 7 other rivers. Water comes from rainfall and melted snow from the Alps. The fringe is made up of a reed system and in parts is protected for the Black Poplar species. There are only around 50 left on the whole site.

Despite being a natural feature, the reeds can die if water levels are too high. This occurred during in the great flood of 1999. Climate change is altering this cycle of water levels which variesy between 1 and 4 metres. The reeds are an important method of filtering water that enters the lake and provides valuable habitats for birds.



Lake Constance is home to migrating, over-wintering and breeding birds including the Great Reed Warbler that nests in the front of the reed belt.

The many water sports on Lake Constance often cause problems for birds, particularly in the breeding season. The adult ducks dive or fly away while the younger baby birds, left on the surface, are not fed and ultimately die. To combat this there are restricted areas that are not accessible to humans except anglers. There is also a restriction of boats on the water which continues to be a problem in Switzerland.


Other info

There is an information boat on the lake to inform users of ‘closed zones’. There is a visitor programme of tours which currently brings in 12,000 euros per year. There are also many maps showing bird-watching locations.

There are still many problems such as too many visitors in the main reserves. Money for general overheads is hard to find and also help from volunteers. There is still much to be done to encourage sustainable tourism at Lake Constance.

 Information Board at Lake Constance
 Nature Reserve "Wollmatinger Ried", Lake Constance
 Shore line at the Lower Lake
 Lower Lake near Radolfzell
 Field Trip to the Nature Resere "Wollmatinger Ried"
 At the Shore Line in Radolfzell
 Radolfzell at Lake Constance
 Field trip in the Wollmatinger Ried
 Information Board
 Field trip in the rain

Hofgemeinschaft Heggelbach Biodynamic Farm

Last year the farm celebrated its 25th anniversary. Originally founded by 3 families today there are 6 families working and living on the farm, 11 adults and 10 children with each adult having his / her own work and responsibility. For example Thomas Schmid is in charge of the energy production and energy supply on the farm, whilst his wife Ulrike Schmid manages the office and organisation. Rolf Raneburger is responsible for producing the Heggelbacher Cheese.


The farm comprises 100 ha plough land and 80 ha grassland. In 1986 there were 9 cows on the farm with cheese and vegetable production being the main profile. Today the farm is a registered Demeter biodynamic farm producing 3 month, 6 month, 12 month and 3 year old unpasteurised cheeses in copper vats. The main vegetables produced for sale are onions and potatoes which are cleaned, then bagged in nets and 1/3 are sold as organic and 2/3 as conventional to wholesalers. The farm also produces fresh grass and hay for the cows. Some of the hay is barn dried by electricity produced on the farm. The energy on the farm is produced partly by solar panels (20 %), and the rest (80 %) by heat from wood chips fed into a wood gasification burner which converts the heat to a 180 HP engine to produce electricity. 50 % of the wood chips come from clearing the pastures of unwanted bushes, the remainder from local biomass.


In addition to this there are pigs reared for fattening and fruit and vegetables to supply the families.


Each part of the farm is one person’s responsibility and the income is shared accordingly. Some items such as the tractor are used by all sections so on average there are 1,500 hours/tractor/year. The biggest success is having 4 generations living together and the most difficult is to make every stage of production pay for itself and for all 6 families from different backgrounds to work together. The goal of the farm is the biodynamic ideal and to work together. According to the farmers what could be done better is to improve communication between each other and to improve working together. Improvements to the pig stable are underway and in the future a way to keep the cows profitably must be found. 


The farm income is supplemented by a holiday apartment for rent to tourists visiting the farm. Less than 5 % of the farm income is from agricultural grants. It takes too long to wait for grant approval when something is needed and it is too complicated to supply the required accounts.

 Hofgemeinschaft Heggelbach

Naturfreundehaus – Sustainable Accommodation Concept

The Nature Tourism Association was established 100 years ago in Vienna, Austria. Since then it has spread throughout Europe with 400 houses in Germany. These Nature Friend Houses are aimed at providing families with accommodation in areas of natural beauty at reasonable rates. The visited centre was rebuilt 4.5 years ago according to energy efficient standards. The energy requirements of the rooms can be checked by a monitor in the reception and the temperatures in the rooms can be adjusted accordingly. The rebuilding of 12 rooms cost 3.5 million euros.


The boathouse provides – boat storage, accommodation and has an environmental education part.  Most children who visit are from the country. The money for the project came partly from the Family Accommodation Fund, the regional government and the local government. The common park was built by the nature friends as a working movement. Here bed + breakfast costs 9 euro. This normally covers the cost of the house, which is managed by local volunteer groups. If the local group can’t manage it, then it is managed by the county. The charge for private caravans is 700 euro/year for land rental plus running costs. Tents are also allowed for which showers and toilets are provided. Solar panels provide the hot water. There are 50 tent places. These, as well as the majority of sailing boats and caravans belong to Naturfreunde members. 


70 people work on the site during the summer. The accommodation can also meet the needs of families who are members of the association. The membership fee is 75 euro initial fee plus 100 euro/family/year. There are discounts of up to 30 % for members. 59 euro is the price of accommodation including breakfast and dinner. There are 80 caravan places available for rentfrom April to October. The site is in a landscape and bird conservation area. The Nature Friends have owned it since 1905.


There are 2 small boat berths just for members. Included in the supervised contract conditions is a no-harm-to-nature clause. There are some motor boats, since they cannot ban them, the use of electric motors are encouraged.


In winter the Nature Conservation Association, Winter Sports Department oversees the area. If there is less than 18 cm snow winter sports are not self-supporting. There is also outside catering available. The members of the association help to maintain the site. Wherever possible the centre was refurbished using natural materials such as wood. For education purposes there is a room for the preparation of education materials and also a kitchen. The architect designed the rooms with a view opening onto the lake. There is gas heating and the centre has its own water spring. The rental rate of the education centre is 99-196 euros for 3 days/person including meals and activities. The centre is now being connected to mains water and gas and internet. Rainwater is not collected at the moment as the roofs have plants on them (green roofs). The project defined the rebuild, there would be 3 changes if this were possible – the rooms would be the same size with separate areas for parents and children, the rooms and restaurant would be made bigger, the terrace entrance which is not suitable for wheelchairs would be changed – there are 2 wheelchair rooms. One of the requirements of the project was that the building had to demonstrate how to save money. On average, people spend 2.8 nights there. Annually they have 5,000 - 6,000 school children visiting.

 Boat Trip
 Boat Trip
 Preparing the canoe trip

Presentations / Input from abroad

The workshop participants shared their own experiences during presentations and group work.

1. Hungary: Tourism in the Balaton Uplands National Park and in Gyenesdías


2. UK: Environment Agency + Lake District National Park + Greener boating Windermere + Nurture Lakeland Love your Lakes and Fixing the Fells campaigns.


3. Spain: Wetland restoration: an opportunity for rural economic development.


4. Poland: Balancing tourism and conservation in Barycz Valley


5. AgriClimateChange – combating climate through farming, Volker Kromrey, Bodensee Stiftung (Lake Constance Foundation)



During extensive group work, the workshop participants compared their lake areas in terms of natural conditions, challenges & experiences.


Among “lessons learned” from Lake Constance were named, promotion of sustainable energies and tourism, importance of locality, identification of local products and local identity for the lake, reachable attractions, high level of coordination and partnerships, guest card system.


Three categories of challenges for lake areas were defined, namely challenges concerning people, economic issues, and the environment. However, everything is closely interrelated, so it was difficult to split the challenges into different groups. The participants continued their work on selected issues and worked in groups on four questions (below some examples can be found, detailed description will be available as a part of the common e-learning tool on Lake Management):


Group 1– How do we control the amount of visitor numbers?

Do we want to control visitors? -> Yes. How?

  • Zoning to reduce the impact of visitors on the most important habitats.
  • Quotas (daily/annual limits of visitors) and (online) registration. Using guides and permits for certain activities (e.g. angling, boats).
  • Limiting parking facilities.
  • Understand how many people come and why – determine carrying capacity…


Group 2 – How do we manage seasonality?

  • New programmes/ events linked to season, like food festivals. E.g. wine and trout festival in October (Hungary), Carp Days in September-October (Poland). These events should be accompanied by a cultural programme and other activities such as cycling or running (races).
  • Attractions/cultural events not affected by the weather, outside the main season. E.g. MILICZ film festival (Poland), music festival in Palencia (Spain), pumpkin festival. These events attract both residents and visitors from outside the region. Even if there is no entrance fee, they make money from hotels, restaurants, etc.
  • Bird watching (spring, winter) + additional activities, combined with educational programmes and trying to get participants involved. Trained guides, school activities, etc…


Group 3 – What are the sustainable options for tourism?

  • Promoting the balance between tourism and conservation.
  • Supporting local economies.
  • Using local food (produced in the region) in touristic businesses.
  • Promoting sustainable transportation: bicycles, public transport, walking, horse riding. Central managing of transport options. Making public transport affordable and easy (e.g. tourist cards, discounts on entrance to attractions for those who take public transport)…


Group 4 – Balance between tourism and nature conservation

  • Strengthening eco-tourism.
  • Strictly protected areas closed for visitors (e.g. breeding and nesting areas), limiting certain activities in certain areas.
  • Focus on those visitors who have special interest in nature (bird watching, photography).
  • More organisation and activities for visitors (e.g. visitor centres, transportation, bird ringing campaigns, activities for schools, nature trails)…