The Wadden Sea is located right in the centre of the south-eastern continental coastline of the North Sea. It is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and mud flats in the world, with natural processes undisturbed throughout most of the area. The ecosystem encompasses a multitude of transitional zones between land, the sea and freshwater environment, and is rich in species specially adapted to the demanding environmental conditions. It is considered one of the most important areas for migratory birds in the world and is connected to a network of other key sites for migratory birds. Its importance is not only in the context of the East Atlantic Flyway but also in the critical role it plays in the conservation of African-Eurasian migratory waterbirds. In the Wadden Sea up to 6.1 million birds can be present at the same time, and an average of 10-12 million pass through it each year.
The serial, transnational future nomination would encompass the Danish Wadden Sea Conservation Area and an offshore extension of the (German) Niedersachsen Wadden Sea National Park and thus extend and complement the existing Wadden Sea World Heritage property (N1314) which basically consists of the Dutch Wadden Sea Key Planning Decision Area, the German Wadden Sea National Parks of Niedersachsen, Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein. The German (Niedersachsen) modification of the property would cover parts of the offshore area off the East Frisian Islands and the Elbe-Weser triangle.
The proposed extension would extend the boundaries of the German (Niedersachsen) part to basically align with the extension of the Niedersachsen National Park in 2010 to include offshore areas important for the protection of the sea birds and marine mammals in particular harbour porpoise.
Justification de la Valeur Universelle Exceptionelle
Criterion (viii): The Wadden Sea is a depositional coastline of unparalleled scale and diversity. It is distinctive in being almost entirely a tidal flat and barrier system with only minor river influences, and an outstanding example of the large-scale development of an intricate and complex temperate-climate sandy barrier coast under conditions of rising sea-level. Highly dynamic natural processes are uninterrupted across the vast majority of the property, creating a variety of different barrier islands, channels, flats, gullies, saltmarshes and other coastal and sedimentary features. It is also one of the best-studied coastal areas on the planet, providing lessons of wider scientific importance for wetland and coastal management of international importance.
Criterion (ix): The Wadden Sea is one of the last remaining natural large-scale intertidal ecosystems, where natural processes continue to function largely undisturbed. Its geological and geomorphologic features are closely entwined with biophysical processes and provide an invaluable record of the ongoing dynamic adaptation of coastal environments to global change. There are a multitude of transitional zones between land, sea and freshwater that are the basis for the species richness of the property. The productivity of biomass in the Wadden Sea is one of the highest in the world, most significantly demonstrated in the numbers of fish, shellfish and birds supported by the property. The property is a key site for migratory birds and its ecosystems sustain wildlife populations well beyond its borders.
Criterion (x): Coastal wetlands are not always the richest sites in relation to faunal diversity, however this is not the case for the Wadden Sea. The salt marshes host around 2,300 species of flora and fauna, and the marine and brackish areas a further 2,700 species, and 30 species of breeding birds. The clearest indicator of the importance of the property is the support it provides to migratory birds as a staging, moulting and wintering area. Up to 6.1 million birds can be present at the same time, and an average of 10-12 million each year pass through the property. The availability of food and a low level of disturbance are essential factors that contribute to the key role of the nominated property in supporting the survival of migratory species. The nominated property is the essential stopover that enables the functioning of the East Atlantic and African-Eurasian migratory flyways. Biodiversity on a worldwide scale is reliant on the Wadden Sea.
Satements of authenticity and/or integrity
The complementation of the existing Wadden Sea World Heritage property with the Danish part and the German (Niedersachsen) offshore extension would result in the inclusion of app. three quarters of the Wadden Sea Area within the whole future property. Basically all critical ecological processes and key features and values that constitute the Wadden Sea would be comprised within the property. The Modification therefore would significantly contribute to enhance and strengthen its integrity in accordance with the decision of the World Heritage Committee on its inscription of the Dutch-German Wadden Sea on the World Heritage List at its 2009 session.
Comparison with other similar properties
The Wadden Sea is a coastal sea running for about 500 km along the North Sea coasts of Denmark, Germany and The Netherlands. The Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken belt of bare intertidal mud and sand flats in the world. Nowhere else in the world is there an area on a similar scale and multifaceted which contains such a complex and repetitive habitat matrix of tidal flats, gullies, salt marshes, dunes and islands, and estuaries in with natural process undisturbed in most of the area.
The great productivity and size of the Wadden Sea provide a foundation for the reproduction of North Sea fish stocks and for its function as a turntable of bird migration. The Wadden Sea is of outstanding international importance as a staging, moulting and wintering area for at least 52 populations of 41 migratory water bird species on the East Atlantic flyway. Over 10 -12 million birds pass through this area each year.
By comparison with 31 listed WH sites and 24 listed WH coastal sites it becomes apparent that only Banc d’Arguin in Mauretania can be compared to the Wadden Sea. A further comparative analysis with 44 non-listed sites with mudflats larger than 300 km² (selected from a list of 350 intertidal mudflats world-wide) resulted in one area, the Georgia Bight (USA), which has comparable features as the Wadden Sea. Both sites, Banc d’Arguin and Georgia Bight, have significant differences when compared with the Wadden Sea with regard to the size of the intertidal area, the existence of a barrier island system, and their ecology.
In conclusion, the Wadden Sea is to be regarded as of outstanding universal value compared to similar areas world-wide.