Biodiversität auf kirchlichen Friedhöfen (Biodiversity in Church Cemeteries)

Changes in people’s interment arrangements have reduced the demand for graves, posing both an economic and environmental challenge for the Church. With its near-natural design approach, the graveyard biodiversity project reduces the maintenance effort involved in tending cemeteries, makes them more visually attractive and increases the biodiversity that exists within their walls.

Graveyard upgrades bring added value

Churches belonging to the Church of Hanover have some 850 graveyards which are overseen by the respective parish councils. With the growing demand for cremations and natural burials, such as in woodlands, demand for cemetery plots has dropped despite a rise in mortalities.

The project aims to environmentally enhance surplus areas in church cemeteries and graveyards, while still serving the growing demand for either low-maintenance or maintenance-free but nonetheless attractive graves. With the new package of services, graves are no longer replanted several times a year according to season. Instead, they are planted with native perennial flowering shrubs and their maintenance is contracted out to professionals. The new solution is designed to combine economic viability with environmental enhancement.

Eight-phase strategy

The project has eight different phases:

Phases 1– 4: Develop an environment management system, maps and data resources, cemetery development planning, mapping of surplus areas and potential new grave plots, habitat assessment.

The project primarily focuses on 16 parishes. With the help of their cemetery teams, they have introduced a certified environment management system. The cemetery is made more attractive and plots are used in a more targeted way (for modern graves or increased biodiversity). The low level of maintenance needed results in reduced costs. In these early phases, the following questions are asked: what plans are in store for which cemetery in which parish and in which district? What software programme was used to produce the plans? Who uses which cemetery management programme and what kind of maps (analogue or digital) and programmes are needed for which cemetery? Maps and administrative data are vital resources in preparing a cemetery development plan. They provide an overview of the areas available for modern graves, habitats and compensatory measures. Areas are mapped and habitats assessed in cooperation with nature conservation associations and universities. This gives the parishes an insight into the habitat level of potential surplus areas and potential plots for new graves.

Phases 5 – 8: Consultation on environmental enhancement of surplus areas and grave plots, compensatory measures, implementation.

With the help of expert planners, students and nature conservation associations, the parishes decide which of the surplus areas are to be redesigned and enhanced, and then draw up a cost schedule. The responsible cemetery gardening teams are then trained by experienced gardeners and cemetery administrators in designing and enhancing their respective graveyards. Where appropriate, a contractual agreement is entered into with the local municipal administration to govern the designation of surplus areas as environmental compensation areas. The selected area are redesigned and enhanced in cooperation with local nature conservation groups, the cemetery gardening team and volunteers. Information boards, flyers, websites and events are used to promote the new cemetery service.


Haus kirchlicher Dienste - Umwelt- und Klimaschutz

Archivstr. 3

30169 Hannover

Opening times: 9 am – 2 pm

Contact: Gabriela Gust



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