Wadden Sea

The Wadden Sea, the world’s largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mudflats, is a UNESCO World Heritage, a LTER platform and a Natura 2000 site. The Wadden Sea stretches from Den Helder (NL), past the great river estuaries of Germany to its northern boundary at Skallingen (DK) along a total coastline of some 500 km and a total area of about 10,000 km2This area functions as a nursery for juvenile (commercial) fish, an essential stopover site for migratory birds which use the East Atlantic Flyway, and an important habitat for both harbour and grey seals. The governments of the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany have been working together since 1978 on the protection and conservation of the Wadden Sea. Human activities in this area include shellfish and shrimp fisheries, salt and gas mining, and tourism. Furthermore, the area provides access to major ports such as those of Hamburg and Bremen.


Habitat types in Wadden Sea


Mudflats with microphytobenthos


Saltmarsh, oyster & mussel reefs


Seagrass meadows


  • Many coastal transitions, very limited space

  • Strong urge to act (e.g., active restoration), less motivated to protect

  • Conflicting guidelines, frameworks & laws

  • Cumulative impacts of climate change (heatwaves, droughts & enhanced sea level rise)

Main objectives

  1. 1

    Protection and restoration of natural values ranging from regional agreements to international laws.

Key Opportunities

  • International World Heritage Status
  • National initiative to strengthen natural values (ministry of fisheries, nature & food quality)
  • Increased cooperation between governmental parties, stakeholders & NGO’s

Current and future restoration actions