Posts Tagged ‘Vadehavet’

Allure of the Wadden Sea

Monday, July 24th, 2017

 

Whether you call it Wadden Sea in English, Wattenmeer in German, Waddenzee in Dutch or Vadehavet in Danish, what takes place twice each day within this 310-mile stretch along the coastline of the North Sea is nothing short of spectacular. I am referring to the coastal intertidal belt that encompasses an area of almost 4,000 square miles. Twice each day, the North Sea rises to its highest level (high tide), covering the intertidal zone; and twice each day, the sea level falls to its lowest level (low tide), revealing the intertidal zone. Each day, land appears and then disappears again.

The Wadden Sea near Cuxhaven at low tide. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

The Wadden Sea near Cuxhaven at low tide. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Where are the Wadden Sea National Parks?

The Wadden Sea National Parks are located along the German Bight of the North Sea and include the wetlands of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. In 1986, UNESCO declared the Wadden Sea a biosphere reserve. The area stretches from Den Helder in the Netherlands, past the Elbe and Weser river estuaries of Germany, to Skallingen in Denmark. Divided from each other by only administrative borders, the parks form a single ecological entity. The landscape of the Wadden Sea was formed by storm tides in the 10th to the 14th centuries, which carried away the land behind the coastal dunes. The small remaining islands within the Wadden Sea are remnants of former coastal dunes. Winds, waves and the tides continually reshape the landscape with constant pressure from every angle.

Flora and fauna of the Wadden Sea

The Wadden Sea is the largest unbroken system of intertidal sand and tidal flats on our planet. Geologically, it is an extremely young area. Its unique landscape hosts habitats found nowhere else in the world. Up to 6.1 million birds have been present at the same time, and an average of 10-12 million pass through the area each year. The salt marches host 2,300 species of flora and fauna. The marine and brackish areas hosts an additional 2,700 species as well as 30 species of breeding birds http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/1314. The wetlands are home to creatures of all sizes ranging from the smallest, like worms and crabs of all sorts, to seals and dolphins that have re-colonized the area in large numbers. Hundreds of thousands of gulls, terns, ducks and geese use the Wadden Sea as a stopover, a wintering or a breeding site.

A typical inhabitant of the Wadden Sea is the Wattwurm (lugworm), which lives in a U-shaped tube beneath the surface. Their casts produce unique patterns in the sand. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

A typical inhabitant of the Wadden Sea is the Wattwurm (lugworm), which lives in a U-shaped tube beneath the surface. Their casts produce unique patterns in the sand. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2014. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

From the shore, the Wadden Sea looks flat and almost uninteresting, but once you get away from the shore, you’ll find yourself in another world. It feels a bit like having left planet earth and travelling in a parallel universe. Much of the wetlands can be explored on foot or by horse-drawn carriage. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/wattwagenfahrt-endless-discovery/

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, “Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom,” click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com