Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 71–78 | Cite as

Are Wadden Sea tidal systems with a higher tidal range more resilient against sea level rise?

  • Jacobus L.A. HofstedeEmail author
  • Johannes Becherer
  • Hans Burchard


Accelerated sea level rise may have serious implications for the Wadden Sea ecosystem in its present state. If sediment accumulation rates on the extensive intertidal flats stay behind sea level rise, the flats will eventually submerge. Drowning of the flats has negative consequences for nature conservation and for coastal risk management. Based upon an evaluation of steady state relations for Wadden Sea tidal basins, Hofstede (Zeitschrift für Geomorphologie 59(3): 377-391, 2015) postulated that the capacity of these basins to balance sea level rise by accumulation on intertidal flats seems positively related to mean tidal range. In the present study, morphodynamical simulations with a numerical model were performed for two tidal basins in the German Wadden Sea to verify the empirically established hypothesis. The following conclusions are established. Larger mean tidal range improves the capacity of Wadden Sea tidal basins to balance sea level rise. Wadden Sea intertidal flats are effective sediment sinks and seem quite resilient against (higher rates of) sea level rise. Finally, subtidal gullies may constitute a significant sediment source for accumulation on intertidal flats in response to sea level rise. With respect to the limited comparability of the two investigated tidal systems, morphodynamical modelling of all Wadden Sea tidal systems should be conducted.


Wadden Sea Sea level rise Tidal basins Inter-tidal flats Coastal geomorphology Morphodynamical modelling 



General Estuarine Transport Model (


Sea level rise


Mean tidal range


Mean tidal low water level


Mean tidal high water level


Mean sea level


Inter-tidal sediment volume (amount of sediment between MLW and MHW)


Tidal prism (amount of sea water between MLW and MHW at MHW time, i.e., the water volume that enters and leaves the tidal basin with each tidal phase)



This paper has been produced in the context of a trilateral cooperation among German, Dutch and Danish coastal administrations on the future morphological development of the Wadden Sea under climate change. The authors want to thank the partners from Deltares (NL) and Kystdirektoratet (DK) for constructive discussions.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jacobus L.A. Hofstede
    • 1
    Email author
  • Johannes Becherer
    • 2
  • Hans Burchard
    • 3
  1. 1.Schleswig-Holstein Ministry of EnergyAgriculture, Environment and Rural AreasKielGermany
  2. 2.College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS)Oregon State UniversityCorvallisUSA
  3. 3.Leibniz-Institute for Baltic Sea Research WarnemündeRostockGermany

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