Retrospective assessment of a managed coastal realignment and lagoon restoration measure: the Geltinger Birk, Germany


We document and analyse the implementation process of a large combined coastal protection realignment and nature protection rewetting scheme, covering about 1000 ha at the German Baltic coast. The assessment reviews local planning documents, includes a media analysis, a tourist survey, stakeholder interviews and we provide criteria for measuring success, derived from the Systems Approach Framework (SAF) concept. The full process in the Geltinger Birk took over 25 years and was finished in 2013. The early years were characterised by strong local opposition, a polarization of the local society, misinformation and negative media coverage. Land purchase, the establishment of a local information centre with an environmental manager, improved public participation, a more pro-active media strategy and the readiness to accept compromises finally enabled a successful implementation. Today, a comprehensive tourism information and guidance system exists and the area became a popular tourist place. 80% of all visitors point out the outstanding nature experience and 87% are positive about the combined coastal protection and restoration measure. Parallel, major stakeholders changed their attitude and today are positive about the situation. However, the long timespan between initiation of the process and implementation of the measure, calls for a systematic, guided management approach, like the SAF. Especially, because climate change, sea level rise and increasing pressures on the coasts require a much faster implementation of adaptation measures in future.

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We thank Dr. J. Hofstede, Ministerium für Energiewende, Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und ländliche Räume des Landes Schleswig-Holstein, for giving access to the ministry archive and Prof. Dr. F. Saathoff for supervision of and helpful comments on the master thesis by C. Barthel.

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Correspondence to Gerald Schernewski.

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The work was part-funded by the BONUS-BaltCoast project. BONUS-BaltCoast has received funding from BONUS (Art 185) funded jointly from the European Union’s Seventh Programme for research, technological development and demonstration, and from Baltic Sea national funding institutions (BMBF 03F0717A).



Table 2 Chronology of the Geltinger Birk development and the combined coastal protection, re-alignment and wetland restoration measure

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Schernewski, G., Bartel, C., Kobarg, N. et al. Retrospective assessment of a managed coastal realignment and lagoon restoration measure: the Geltinger Birk, Germany. J Coast Conserv 22, 157–167 (2018).

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  • Public perception
  • Public participation
  • Rewetting
  • Coastal wetlands
  • Coastal development
  • Tourist survey