Study visit from the Swedish-Finnish marine World Heritage to the Wadden Sea

On 10 and 11 March 2020, three representatives from the Swedish-Finnish World Heritage site “High Coast and Kvarken Archipelago” visited the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS) to share experiences regarding joint management and cohesive communication of the Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) of a transnational marine World Heritage property like the Wadden Sea.

The High Coast and Kvarken Archipelago was inscribed in 2000 and 2006 because of its outstanding example of important geological processes that formed the glaciated and land uplift areas of the Earth's surface. The site has one of the largest uplift of up to 1 cm per year. Harald Marencic (CWSS) noted that this has also an effect on the Wadden Sea: “Because of the extraordinary high uplift in Scandinavia, the Wadden Sea sinks about 2 mm per year which indicates how geological processes are connected over a large distance.”

Similar to the trilateral Wadden Sea, the High Coast and Kvarken Archipelago has a complex management system. More, the site faces the additional challenge, as the High Coast in Sweden and the Kvarken Archipelago in Finland have very different types of landscape and are not visibly connected.  “We are in the process of developing a joint management plan for the entire property” said Malin Herniksson, Site Manager of the Kvarken Archipelago. “Thus, an exchange with other transboundary World Heritage site proves very helpful for us.” Both regions have initiated the Interreg Botnia-Atlantica project "Lystra" (i.e. Awareness) which aims to increase the recognition of the transnational World Heritage Site in Sweden and Finland, and promote related business, while at the same time helping to ensure the sustainable development of the area. The Interreg North Sea Region Programme project "' PROWAD Link" has similar aims, therefore a further exchange between the projects is planned.

At the start of the tour, the delegation was welcomed by Bernhard Rauhut at the Wadden Sea World Heritage Visitor Centre in Cuxhaven. Rauhut showcased how the Lower Saxon centre communicates World Heritage in different aspects (global importance, nature conservation, threats and challenges and cultural dimension) to various target groups. He also introduced five young volunteers who work at the centre for one year (financed by the national programmes "FöJ" and "BFD"). The group is currently being certified as  National Park tour guides and will further develop the centre’s shop towards promoting sustainable, regional and plastic free products. Anna Carlemalm, Director of the High Coast Visitor Centre, was impressed by the work of the volunteers. “We are also fortunate to rely on the support of volunteers and scientist, but it would be great if a similar volunteer system could be installed in our country.”

The delegation continued with a visit of the new permanent exhibition at the National Park House in Fedderwardersiel, followed by a field trip to the “Langwarder Groden”, a de-embanked summer polder which was opened to the tide to induce natural salt marsh processes. A board walk allows direct access to closely enjoy mudflats and salt marsh pioneer zones, in an extraordinary way which is only possible at few other locations.

Further, the Swedish-Finnish representatives visited the island of Langeoog to learn about the Lower Saxon National Park’s management and visitor information approach in the field. They were guided by the local National Park Ranger Jochen Runar, who explained salt marsh restoration as well as dune development on the island. At the National Park info point “Vogelwärterhaus”, where the first nature protected area for seabirds was established in Germany in 1875, the guests were informed about breeding and migratory birds in the vicinity of the hut specifically the increasing number of spoonbills breeding in the salt marshes. The tour ended at the National Park observation hut at the east end of the island with an impressive view on huge numbers of resting birds and seals.

“A further cooperation of both marine sites, the Wadden Sea and the High Coast and Kvarken Archipelago has a high potential to learn from each other and support an effective management of the sites,” concluded Patrik Bylund, World Heritage Manager of the High Coast. Both sites actively cooperate in the UNESCO World Heritage Marine Programme, a network of 50 marine sites worldwide and have initiated an exchange between marine and coastal World Heritage sites in Europe (i.e. Western Norwegian Fjords, Jurassic Coast, St. Kilda).

Margrita Sobottka (National Park Authority Lower Saxon Wadden Sea" thanked the Swedish and Finnish colleagues for their visit and high interest in protection and management of the Lower Saxon Wadden Sea National Park as part of the transboundary World Heritage Site and for sharing their views on similar challenges and opportunities.

“The visit has clearly shown the added value of direct exchange of site managers, scientists, and experts in communication and education when it comes to protect and enhance awareness for our World Heritage sites” resumed Marencic. “As a World Heritage, our responsibility does not stop at national borders but carries a global dimension, which we aim to live up to through projects and initiatives, such as the Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative, a partner network along the East Atlantic Flyway”.