Buffer zones may serve a wide range of purposes covering from environmental to socioeconomic and military issues, but here the focus is on the use of buffer zones for environmental protection purposes. Basically, an environmental buffer zone serves the purpose of changing an environmental pressure and, thus, effect occurring in a recipient adjacent to the zone. Therefore, buffer zones are closely connected to environmental problems of a site-specific nature.

Usually, the designation of a buffer zone in itself does not lead to changes in environmental pressures. Therefore, an important part of defining buffer zones is to establish the specific regulation of activities within the zone. Thus, the designation of buffer zones can be structured into tree initial steps:

1. define the policy target;

2. establish the criteria for appointing the zone; and

3. define regulation within the zone

To support the policy choices an ex ante evaluation of different options should be performed, and the implementation should be followed by an ex post evaluation to evaluate the fulfillment of the policy target. Establishment of buffer zones in this article is seen as a policy strategy applied to realize a pre-specified environmental objective; thus, focus here is on issues 2 and 3.

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