Text from the Indicator Report 2022
Settlement and transport area should not be equated with sealed land. Settlement land includes areas used for residential building, industry and commerce, public facilities, recreational amenities or cemeteries. It also covers land used for surface or sub-surface mining. However, mining land is not counted in the calculations for this indicator, as it ends up being reclaimed for other uses in the long term (e.g. as renaturalised post-mining landscapes). Transport area is made up of four subcategories: road transport, rail, aviation and shipping. The indicator therefore refers not only to sealed areas but also to undeveloped and unsealed land. These include, for example, domestic gardens, parks and other green spaces. As calculated in the environmental economic accounts compiled by the Länder, the sealed share of their settlement and transport area is estimated at 45 % on average (2020).
The indicator is derived from the area survey by type of actual use (official land-use statistics), which in turn is based on data from the official land register maintained by the Länder. Some areas of land have been reclassified in the official land register in recent years without any actual change in the way they are used. To balance out the effect this has on the statistics for any particular year, a four-year moving average is also shown, averaging out the year in question and the three preceding years. Moreover, the switch from the old to the new land-use classification system was completed in 2016, which affected the official land-use statistics such that the data for 2016 are not directly comparable to those for previous years. It is for this reason that the overall indicator value for 2016 is also not subdivided into types of settlement or transport use.
From 2000 to 2020, 6,257 km² of land was converted into settlement and transport area. This is equivalent to more than twice the area of Saarland. The majority, 85 %, was converted into settlement land, while 15 % went to accommodate transport infrastructure.
The four-year moving average of previously undeveloped areas newly converted to settlement or transport area continuously decreased throughout the time series until 2019. This year, the four-year moving average was at 52 hectares per day and increased to 54 hectares per day in 2020. Considered for each reporting year separately, the value for new settlement or transport area was lowest in 2019, at 45 hectares per day. The figure has risen again since then, to 58 hectares per day in 2020.
In 2020, the area of settlement or transport use amounted to 50,196 km², or 14 % of the total area of Germany. The largest land types in Germany are agricultural land at 180,934 km² (51 %) followed by woodland at 106,666 km² (30 %). Settlement and transport area grew by 942 km² between 2016 and 2020. Agricultural land shrank by 1,703 km² during the same period, while woodland grew by 496 km². It can therefore be assumed that the increase in settlement and transport area was primarily at the expense of agricultural land.