Rescuing Wadden Sea from rising waters

17.10.2015 07:48
Kategorie: News

WWF publishes study on long-term adaptation of the Wadden Sea to climate change

Flooded salt meadow at the Westerhever lighthouse. © Hans-Ulrich Rösner / WWF
Flooded salt meadow at the Westerhever
lighthouse. © Hans-Ulrich Rösner / WWF

The sea levels are rising and this is true even for the Wadden Sea. Since 1900, the levels have increased by 1.6 mm annually on average in the Wadden Sea of Schleswig Holstein. WWF expects that this trend has been accelerated considerably by climate change.

The rising sea levels will cause enormous problems for the Wadden Sea National Park, also a World Heritage Site. Janne Fröhlich from WWF Germany said that huge mudflats would constantly flood, wash away islands and shores, increasing the risk of rising sea levels and storm surges. To prevent the Wadden Sea from overflowing, their levels must be higher.

According to the WWF, any action must be taken alongside the regional measures to bring about effective climate protection at the global level.

A newly published WWF study contains 13 case studies from the Netherlands, England, the US and other countries, showing the various options  for adaptation to climate change, based on ‘Growing with the Sea’, the timely adaption of the Wadden Sea to rising sea levels.

The Wadden Sea of Sylt under a sheet of ice © Olaf Klodt
The Wadden Sea of Sylt under a sheet of ice © Olaf Klodt

The main findings were: Especially on shallow coasts, the mudflats, salt marshes and islands must be conserved; and in cases where they do not exist anymore, they must be restored. With these procedures, the resilience of the coastlines are strengthened. Sediments which had been worn off by erosion can be replenished by sand, if natural circumstances permit this. Even a natural dune development – as in the Dutch model – will help to address the effects of the climate change. As a result, sand from the beach could blow through the dunes to the hinterland. This increases the land area, and strengthens uninhabited island areas. Salt marshes, the sediments deposited at high tide which act as a buffer between the land and sea during storm surges, should be restored. But the case studies show that we need a broad alliance between the parties concerned and long-term planning for its successful implementation.

According to the WWF, the special challenge for the Wadden Sea National Park is to use mainly natural forces such as wind and tides for the ‘Growing with the Sea’ programme and to help them as smoothly as possible.

"Measures for climate adaptation must fulfil two requirements in the Wadden Sea: You must serve to protect the people, but at the same time contribute to the preservation of the national park and World Heritage Site with its biodiversity and nature," said Fröhlich. If this association turns out to be a success, the biodiversity and naturalness of the unique landscape of the North Sea coast would also be preserved to 2100 and beyond.

Further Informationen:

PDF Link to the study: