Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park

Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park



Location: Lower Saxony  Map

Area: 345,800 ha

Tel. +49 4421 9110


Description of Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park

Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park is located in Lower Saxony region of Germany. Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park covers an area of 345,800 ha of dunes, salt marshes and mudflats on the coast of the Baltic Sea. There is a large diversity of species including mussels, snails, shrimps, mud worms and many other crustaceous that serve as a food for seals and numerous species of birds that flock to the area for nesting.


The habitats to be protected in this national park include the mudflats, sandbanks, salt marshes, beaches, dunes and estuaries into the North Sea. Particular attention should be paid to the fauna and flora typical of the Wadden Sea.

The North Sea coast is unusually flat. The sea floor only drops a few centimeters per kilometer. Twice a day the tide carries sand, clay and silt into the Wadden Sea area. Dunes mark the coast, which the wind builds up from the fine grains of sand from the exposed mudflats.

The Wadden Sea is the second most productive ecosystem after the tropical rainforest - only this surpasses the Wadden Sea in terms of living biomass. The life forms found in the Wadden Sea include diatoms, snails, worms, mussels and shrimp. A typical inhabitant of the sand mudflat is the lugworm, which lives in a U-shaped tube under the mudflat surface.

Up to 4,000 animal and plant species specialize in the unusually nutritious habitat of the Wadden Sea. For example, shelduck live on the mud flats, hundreds of thousands of which can be found on the surface of the mudflats. The north-western European shelduck population of around 180,000 birds also spends its moulting season in the Wadden Sea between July and September. Around 200,000 eider ducks also spend their moulting season here; around 1000 pairs of eider ducks use the tidal flats of the North Sea as a breeding area. Most of them breed on the island of Amrum.

At the same time, the Wadden Sea is a resting area for breeding birds from Nordic countries, which eat the fat reserves that they need for successful breeding. There are around 10–12 million waders, geese, ducks and seagulls in the entire Wadden Sea.

Seals can be seen on the sandbanks in the Wadden Sea and salt marshes, sandy beaches and dunes border the Wadden Sea. The sea thistle and sea lavender bloom in summer on the salt marshes, which are used as breeding grounds for avocets and terns. The most typical plant of the dunes is the common beach grass, which fixes the dunes with its extensive roots.

History of the national park
Since the Ramsar Convention of 1971, today's national park areas and the Dollart have been protected as wetlands of international importance.

In 1979, Hans-Joachim Augst and Holger Wesemüller submitted an expert report that developed a zoning model based on the differences in importance of different areas of the Wadden Sea that are worthy of protection. The Lower Saxony regional planning program of 1982 then specified the development of a nature park “East Frisian Islands and Coast” as a regional planning goal. This idea was taken up in 1983 and planning for a comprehensive national park began. At the beginning of 1984 the cabinet resolution basically approving a national park and on January 1, 1986 the National Park Ordinance came into force.

According to the UNESCO program "man and biosphere", the entire national park was recognized as a biosphere reserve in 1992, see the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea Biosphere Reserve.

The national park has been a registered fauna-flora-habitat area according to the European Habitats Directive since 1997 with zones I and II. Since 2000 it has also been a registered bird sanctuary under the European Birds Directive. The national park is part of the Natura 2000 network and protection regime.

Initially, the national park was protected by an ordinance that came into force in 1986 and was replaced by a state law in 1999. On July 11, 2001, the law on the “Lower Saxony Wadden Sea” National Park (NWattNPG) was newly announced: Numerous areas for tourism were removed from the scope of the national park or downgraded in the zoning. For this purpose, a pure marine area off the islands of Borkum and Baltrum and the former nature reserve in the eastern part of the Dollart were included in the national park. The protection area increased from 240,000 hectares to almost 280,000 hectares.

In January 2002, the East Frisian nature conservation group Wattenrat Ost-Friesland lodged a complaint with the EU Commission in Brussels against the removal or downgrading of more than 80 partial areas for tourism, mainly on the East Frisian Islands. The Commission incorporated the complaint into an ongoing infringement procedure against Germany (complaint number 2002/4099, Ref .: ENV A2 / MD / avdm D (2005) 6096). After more than four years, in a letter dated October 25, 2006, the EU Commission informed the Wattenrat-Ostfriesland that the complaint procedure had been closed “because the Federal Republic of Germany has now designated enough areas as FFH proposal areas” (Ref .: ENV A.2 / MD / pd D 2006 21119).


In July 2006 the twentieth anniversary of the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park was celebrated on the beach of Neßmersiel on the initiative of the State of Lower Saxony. The Lower Saxony nature conservation associations under the leadership of the WWF accompanied the 20th anniversary with a critical “National Park Balance”, which shows in detail the many conflicts of use.

This national park is listed by the IUCN in "Category II, National Parks". It should be noted, however, that the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is based on the reports from the individual countries and there is currently no independent review of the assigned categories, which can lead to errors in the listing. It is also important to know that the categories from I to VI reflect the objectives of the protected area management, but are not an indicator of quality, or success or failure. However, the "European Environment Agency" (EAP) lists the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park in "Category V, Protected Landscape", i.e. roughly a landscape protection area (written information from the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Center (UNEP-WCMC) in Cambridge on 23 October 2008).

In 2008, the Wadden Sea in Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein was proposed to UNESCO for nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walter Hirche (FDP) has been President of the German UNESCO Commission since 2003, who was Minister of Economics in Lower Saxony from 2003 to 2009.

In the run-up to the nomination of the Wadden Sea as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a senior officer of the Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and representatives of the tourism industry in and around the Wadden Sea took part in an expert visit. From newspaper reports published at the same time and later, however, it emerged that the UNESCO nomination should primarily serve as an “internationally effective marketing instrument for the tourism industry” and that it did not involve any additional restrictions through nature conservation measures.

“We have to make the UNESCO World Heritage Site known at home and abroad and point out its importance as a unique ecosystem with a special biodiversity, says Friesland's District Administrator Sven Ambrosy. So far, despite its age, the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park still has a comparatively low level of awareness. [...] A region can only market itself if it is proud of itself and loves it. "

“According to the IHK, this international award also offers great opportunities for tourism. “The region can and must grow with the pound”, explained the IHK boss. Should the Wadden Sea actually be awarded this title, the entire North Sea coast would receive a new trademark. Kolck emphasized that recognition as a world natural heritage would not change the current legal situation. "

On June 26, 2009, the Lower Saxony Wadden Sea National Park, together with the Dutch Wadden Sea and the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park in Seville, were recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Hamburg Wadden Sea was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site on June 27, 2011. Denmark has so far refused to nominate its tidal flats.

On February 19, 2010, the law on the "Lower Saxony Wadden Sea" National Park was changed again and adapted to the Federal Nature Conservation Act. As a result of the amendment, the national park was enlarged by approx. 670 km², mainly in the area of ​​Cuxhaven and the Elbe-Weser estuary. The total area grew to almost 3500 km².