The tidal flats of the Dutch Wadden Sea run a very real risk of becoming permanently submerged because of sea level rises and subsidence caused by gas and salt extraction, a report by the region’s lobby group Waddenvereniging shows.
It is unlikely that the process of sedimentation – or bringing in new sand and mud – will keep up with the rising sea levels and the Wadden Sea eco system may be a thing of the past by the end of this century, the report says.
The Wadden Sea stretches from Den Helder to Denmark and is a Unesco world heritage site. The area is an important breeding and overwintering ground for birds and has a rich fauna and flora while the Wadden Sea islands are popular Dutch holiday destinations.
The report says the only chance for the system to survive more or less intact is if the consequences of climate change are not as bad as projected and the extraction of minerals from under the tidal flats stops.
‘If, added to that, global warming can be limited to two degrees, the Wadden Sea has a realistic chance of surviving into the next century,’ science journalist and writer of the report, Rolf Schuttenhelm told Trouw.
According to estimates by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sea levels around the world will increase by 44 to 74 centimetres by the end of this century. Dutch weather bureau KNMI predicted last month that sea levels along the Dutch coast may rise by as much as three metres by 2100, the paper said.
‘We think we can protect the Wadden Sea by monitoring it, Schuttenhelm said. ‘But that is misleading. Halfway into this century we will know by how much sea level rise will accelerate. Almost all scenarios point to a loss of the tidal flats. The Wadden Sea eco system can only survive if all the circumstances are right and extraction stops.’
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