Monitoring Intertidal Flats – How researchers can support the Monitoring of the German Wadden Sea with satellite images

The Wadden Sea, a 450 km coastal wetland along the North Sea coasts of Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands, is one of the largest continuous tidal flats in the world and one of the last areas in Europe where nature can still develop to a great extent without human influence. To preserve this unique ecosystem, the German coastal states declared it as National Parks and, moreover, the Wadden Sea in Schleswig-Holstein, Lower Saxony and the Netherlands was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2009. It forms the transition zone between the North Sea and the mainland and is characterized by large changes in water coverage due to the semi-diurnal tides. The Wadden Sea is a highly dynamic area with habitats comprising tidal channels, sandbars, mudflats, and saltmarshes. Its physical characteristics provide the base for a high primary productivity, which in turn leads to a high biodiversity and makes the Wadden Sea an important site for bird migration.

Due to its high ecological value and importance, the Wadden Sea underlies national and international environmental legislation and requires extensive monitoring. Therefore, satellite images as a source of information for the monitoring of the Wadden Sea have been investigated and methods have been developed to detect different surface types such as sediment, mussel beds or seagrass meadows. Different sensors are meanwhile available to be used for this application, namely the Landsat-8 OLI, SPOT, RapidEye and Sentinel-2 MSI.

The remote sensing products not only provide information on area and location, which amongst others are needed for fulfilling environmental legislation requirements, they can also be used for trend analysis for more comprehensive assessment of the Wadden Sea and its constituent habitats. One of the major advantages of this approach is the large spatial coverage with individual satellite images, allowing simultaneous assessment of both accessible and inaccessible areas at specific dates and thus providing a more complete overall picture.

  • More than 15 years of experience in the field of Wadden Sea Monitoring
  • Stand-out expertise in the analysis of satellite imagery capturing intertidal flats
  • Scientific development of a framework for classification of satellite images with different thematic focus
  • Use of modern analysis and monitoring techniques to support environmental monitoring
  • Provision of valuable information on the appearance and dimension of different surface types in the German Wadden Sea (seagrass meadows, mussel beds and sediments)
  • Product validation
  • Supporting the assessment and monitoring of the ecological condition of the Wadden Sea
  • Development of an operational service for the German Wadden Sea
  • Interfacing with scientists, public authorities, and National Parks
  • Project management
  • Documentation and reporting