Wadden Sea World Heritage under stress by climate change

New IPCC-report underpins the importance of Danish-Dutch-German cooperation

Today (25 September, Monaco) the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a Special Report titled “Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate”. It includes new projections on global mean sea level rise – a factor highly relevant to the Wadden Sea ecosystem. In light of the IPCC-report, the Trilateral Cooperation on the Protection of the Wadden Sea (TWSC) stresses the importance of climate mitigation measures to limit sea level rise.

For development and stability of the Wadden Sea ecosystem, especially the pace of sea level rise is relevant. This determines whether the average sea bed can follow the rising sea level or that the Wadden Sea will slowly drown. According to the IPPC, for the high emission scenario, if the release of greenhouse gasses is maintained at the current level, global mean sea level rise is projected to reach 15 mm/year (10-20 mm/year, likely range) by the end of this century. For the low emission scenario, if serious climate mitigation was launched immediately, global mean sea level rise will amount to 4 mm/year (2-6 mm/year likely range). In comparison, in past 100 years sea level rose about 20 cm in the Wadden Sea. Further, the IPCC states that sea level will continue to rise for centuries after 2100.

In response to these new figures, the Trilateral Cooperation stresses the imperative of climate mitigation measures, such as CO2-reduction and refers to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change of 2016. The trilateral Cooperation recognizes that climate change and enhanced sea level rise may seriously affect structure, functions and the characteristic biodiversity of the Wadden Sea ecosystem. As substantiated in trilateral reports on sea level rise in the Wadden Sea (CPSL Third Report, CPSL First Report), strong sea level rise may lead to a significant reduction in tidal flats and salt marshes as well as in safety of the inhabitants of the region. Furthermore, climate change may severely impact the present distribution and abundance of species.

In awareness of these implications, the responsible ministers adopted in 2014 a “Trilateral Climate Change Adaptation Strategy” at the 12th Trilateral Governmental Conference on the Protection of the Wadden Sea in Denmark. The aim of this strategy is to enhance and promote policies and measures necessary for increasing the resilience of the Wadden Sea. A trilateral expert group of biologist and engineers evaluates the possible impacts of climate change and looks at possible strategies for adaptation in the Wadden Sea region.

“The new IPCC-projections on global mean sea level rise underpin the possible big impact of climate change on our Wadden Sea”, says Karin Lochte, Chairperson of the Wadden Sea Board, steering body of the TWSC. “Therefore, trilateral cooperation and research on this matter is very important for the protection of the Wadden Sea and should have our continuous attention.  The Wadden Sea states Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands expressed their commitment to climate mitigation measures in their Leeuwarden Declaration, signed in May 2018. The Declaration contains concrete actions to be implemented until 2022.”