National parks are landscapes where nature is left to its own devices, meaning it can develop according to its own rules. Natural landscapes are protected by national parks by preserving nature's inherent laws and by creating retreat areas for wild and often endangered plants and animals. That is why they are essential for the biodiversity and the diversity of species of our planet.
The idea of leaving particularly beautiful landscapes to their own devices arose in Europe and America as early as at the beginning of the 19th century. In Germany, statutory nature reserves were first established in the 1920s. Here, a special protection of nature, landscape and the animal and plant species living there, is in force.
Today there are almost 3,900 national parks worldwide that fulfil the IUCN criteria (International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). Most of them are located in overused environments and have to contend with economic interests. Fortunately, there is a growing awareness of the importance of preserving these oasis of wilderness for the sake of nature itself, but also for future generations.
The very first national park was Yosemite National Park in the USA (1872). From there, the idea of protecting natural landscapes by designating them as national parks, went around the world. To start with, the basic idea was to protect the country's natural wonders from threats of exploitation and destruction for the recreation and joy of present and future generations of the American people. This idea was soon followed by young nations such as Canada (1885), Australia (1879) und New Zealand (1887). Here was a chance to protect pristine areas still undisturbed by human use from exploitation. The first African national park was founded in 1907 in what's today Namibia; Europe followed in 1909 with seven Swedish national parks at once. In 1912, the first Asian national park was established in today's Georgia. Since 1948, the IUCN has been promoting and coordinating worldwide nature protection. The first German national park was founded in 1970 in the Bavarian Forest. The Federal Nature Conservation Act of 2002 states: "The aim of national parks is to safeguard, in the greater part of the area concerned, undisturbed ecosystemary interactions and their natural dynamic processes to the extent possible."