The Wadden Sea is a globally unique natural landscape. Its uniqueness is not only reflected in its exceptional beauty, but also in its wealth of habitats and flora and fauna and the ecological and geological processes that, for the most part, continue to unfold naturally. The registered site extends from Den Helder in the Netherlands through Germany as far as Esbjerg in Denmark. It includes the Wadden Sea National Parks in Schleswig-Holstein, Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Denmark, and the Wadden Sea protected area in the Netherlands. The site covers an area of almost 11,500 unit square kilometer and a coastal stretch of around 500 kilometer.
The designation of the Wadden Sea as World Natural Heritage offers great opportunities for the region. The World Heritage listing ranks the Wadden Sea among a group of globally recognised unique natural landscapes including the Great Barrier Reef off the Australian coast and the Grand Canyon in the US.
Recognition of Wadden Sea as World Natural Heritage
At its 33rd session in June 2009, the World Heritage Committee awarded the Wadden Sea Dutch-German natural heritage site with a globally respected UNESCO World Heritage ranking. At that time, the World Natural Heritage property comprised the national parks of the Lower-Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea and a protected area in the Netherlands. In 2010, the existing World Natural Heritage property was extended to include the Hamburg Wadden Sea National Park following minor changes to the borders. In June 2014, the existing property was enlarged to include the Danish part of the Wadden Sea and a seeward extension in Lower Saxony. With this, the entire German-Dutch-Danish Wadden Sea is now recognised as World Natural Heritage.
The Wadden Sea was nominated as World Natural Heritage on the basis of the following three criteria:
- Geological processes: geological processes and geomorphological and physiographical features
- Ecological processes: ecological and biological processes in ecosystem development
- Biodiversity: significance for the conservation of biological diversity and threatened species worldwide
The IUCN conducted an expert review of the application, in which they assess compliance with the following two criteria:
- Outstanding universal value (OUV): evidence that, compared to other similar sites worldwide, the Wadden Sea possesses outstanding value with regard to the listed criteria.
- Integrity: Integrity denotes the criteria for the completeness and intact nature of the site, but also the quality of protection of the nominated site and its features.
World Heritage Convention
The international Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage (short: World Heritage Convention) was adopted in 1972. The list currently includes 1121 World Heritage properties, of which 869 are World Cultural Heritage, 213 are World Natural Heritage and 39 are mixed heritage properties (as at end of 2019). It is therefore the largest and most important international convention for the protection of the joint cultural and natural heritage of humankind. Nominations for World Natural Heritage properties are sent by UNESCO to the World Conservation Union (IUCN) for expert review.