Experts call for action to address climate change in the Wadden Sea

Climate change is having profound effects on the Wadden Sea, primarily through temperature and sea level rise, as well as extreme weather events. The Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation has now released a scientific report on climate change, conducted by experts from Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, as part of the ongoing Wadden Sea Quality Status Report (QSR). The new report assesses the multifaceted impacts of climate change on this unique ecosystem.

“Since the previous Quality Status Report on climate change of 2017, we have witnessed unprecedented changes including the first mass summer mortality of cockles in 2018, an almost 50% decrease in riverine outflows and an almost 60% increase in the rate of sea level rise”, reports lead author Katja Philippart, director of the Wadden Academy and scientist at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ). “Finding pathways to allow more time for the ecosystem to adapt to these aspects of climate change will be a major challenge for all involved in monitoring, research and management of the Wadden Sea.” These developments underscore the urgent need for coordinated action to address climate change and its impacts on the Wadden Sea.

Key findings reveal the impact of climate change on the Wadden Sea ecosystem and beyond, such as temperature increases leading to species distribution shifts and ecological mismatches. The report emphasises that the changes in climatic conditions and in sediment and water dynamics have put increased pressures on the Wadden Sea ecosystem, a system that is already influenced by other human activities. In particular, the growing rates of climate change require an increasing information flow on changes of the state of the Wadden Sea as well as on the effectiveness of mitigation and adaptation measures.

The report also highlights the increased pressures and cumulative effects on the Wadden Sea ecosystem due to changes in climatic conditions and sediment dynamics, compounded by other human activities. Agreements of the Trilateral Wadden Sea Cooperation, such as the Wadden Sea Plan and the Climate Change Adaptation Strategy aimed at building up the area’s resilience, are recognised as essential frameworks for addressing these challenges. Yet, the authors underscore the urgent need for enhanced monitoring, scientific research, and management strategies to address the multifaceted challenges. They call for a collective effort to implement effective mitigation and adaptation measures to safeguard the Wadden Sea's ecological integrity and its vital services.

The Wadden Sea Quality Status Report is a conglomeration of thematic reports reflecting the continuous monitoring and evaluation of the ecological status of the Wadden Sea. Openly accessible at, it forms the baseline for the identification and review of new emerging challenges. As part of the Trilateral Monitoring and Assessment Programme, the QSR helps identify and fill knowledge gaps and priorities for the improvement of the ecological status of the Wadden Sea. The compiled information feed into the agreements of the Trilateral Cooperation. In 2024, the QSR is expected to receive further updates on shipping & harbours, fisheries, and salt marshes.

View full climate change report