More than just mud: the Wadden Sea
The natural heritage Wadden Sea: At first glance it might simply seem like a vast field of mud. However, if you take a closer look, you will realize that it is habitat to 10 thousands of different single-cell organisms, fungi, plants and animals. This fascinating world is truly captivating. You will find mussels, crabs, lugworms and seals as well as an incredible number of birds. Being one of the most important areas for migratory birds, between 10 and 12 million birds each year take a rest in the mudflats and sometimes 6 million birds are present at the same time. These are only a few reasons, why the German, Dutch and Danish parts of the Wadden Sea have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Is the Wadden Sea in danger?
As it is the case for many remarkable places of the world, the consequences of reckless industry and agriculture can also be felt in the mudflats. Pollutants, plastic waste and overfishing, but also the sea-level that is rising due to the climate change, are putting the sensible ecosystem to the test. During the last centuries, the sea-level has already been rising, albeit much more slowly, and in many places people reacted with the construction of bigger and bigger dykes, dams or concrete and stone structures, often accompanied by a significant destruction of nature. Luckily, many of these measures, such as the embankment of large mud flat areas, are no longer permitted.
How can we preserve the Wadden Sea?
On the wadden islands as well as at the coast, people have been committed to environmental protection for some time now: the use of electric buses, the restriction of car traffic in some areas, ferries that run on liquid gas (LNG) between Emden and Borkum, a deposit system for coffee cups on Spiekeroog or the promotion of a conscious use of plastic on Föhr – there is a great variety of approaches. If you have ever been to the North Sea, you certainly know the sight of the huge wind parks producing renewable energy. The Wadden Sea area is to be climate neutral until 2030, as the bordering countries Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands have jointly decided. Moreover, the German government wants all of the coastal communities to join the transition area of the UNESCO biosphere reserves. The Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony and the Wadden Sea of Schleswig-Holstein have already been recognized as such.
How to explore the Wadden Sea
On a vacation at the North Sea, you shouldn‘t miss making an excursion into the mudflats. The national park Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony offers a wide range of certified trips to visit the seal banks or watch birds and sea mammals. As always when entering a “foreign” habitat, it is important not to disturb the flora and fauna. Therefore, the accompanying personal is specially trained. On the bicycle tour “Juist unplugged”, guided by the sustainability expert Thomas Vodde, guests at the small island Juist discover its ecological and social aspects. And a mudflat hiking tour will give you an understanding of the special ecosystem: The experience center Naturgewalten even organizes winter-themed mudflat hiking tours.
What can you do?
You can do even more to protect the Wadden Sea: by choosing an eco-friendly accommodation you contribute to environmental protection in an indirect way. On the popular island Sylt, Hotel Niedersachsen is the perfect starting point for your explorations of the mudflats, as the hotel is not only climate neutral, but it also uses regional ingredients for cooking and supports a water filtering project in Kenya. If you want to discover the island Juist, that has been certified as a sustainable travel destination, Strandhotel Kurhaus Juist is an eco-friendly choice. Due to its active waste prevention, efficient water management and the purchase of regional ingredients, you will have a relaxed holiday and a clear conscience.