Wadden Sea Experts discuss forms of World Heritage interpretation at Wadden Sea Day

“Only those who know, understand and appreciate the Wadden Sea can protect this World Heritage site.” This statement was the core of this year’s Wadden Sea Day. About 80 stakeholders from the trilateral Wadden Sea – policy-makers, educators, conservation managers, scientists and non-governmental organizations – explored different approaches to communication with residents and visitors, how to implement new technology and educational approaches, how to activate the public for citizen science and communicate scientific research to the public.

“Acceptance and support by local people and victors is essential for the protection of the outstanding universal value of World Heritage sites,” says Olaf Lies, Minister for the Environment, Energy, Construction and Climate Protection of Lower Saxony. “Since you will only protect what you know, a good knowledge of the site and its transfer into different parts of society is the basis for motivating people for protection of nature in general and particularly in conservation areas.” Lies welcomed the participants together with Andreas Wagner, First Mayor of the City of Wilhelmshaven, Karin Lochte, Chairperson of the Wadden Sea Board, Thomas Borchers of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, Peter Südbeck, Head of the National Park Authority “Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer”, and Sascha Klöpper, Interim Executive Secretary of the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS).

The day titled “World Heritage Interpretation – How to transfer knowledge on the Wadden Sea World Heritage” was launched with a global perspective by Carolin Kolhoff, Head of the World Heritage Division of the German Commission for UNESCO. In her presentation she emphasized the importance of communication and education for the preservation and protection of a World Heritage Site. Anja Szczesinski (WWF Wadden Sea Office Husum, International Wadden Sea School) followed with the regional view and presented the trilateral education strategy for the Wadden Sea World Heritage, which was adopted in Leeuwarden in May 2018 by the Wadden Sea ministers of Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. “With the strategy we now have an excellent framework, in which we have described and collected the national and trilateral activities. However, to truly and consistently communicate the Outstanding Universal Value of the Wadden Sea every single educational player is needed”, says Szczesinski.

One pillar of the education strategy is the International Wadden Sea School, a network of visitor centres that regularly exchange information on Wadden Sea topics. Klaus Melbye (Vadehavscentret) and Claus von Hoerschelmann (Multimar Wattforum) are members of the network. Using the example of their visitor centres, they presented the methodological change in educational work. Lars Wohlers (KON-TIKI Interpretive Planning, Training and Evaluation) dedicated his presentation to the topic of visitor flow evaluation as a basis for improving the quality of educational facilities.

The second part of the lectures shed light on forms of interactive knowledge transfer. Rainer Borcherding (Schutzstation Wattenmeer) presented the Beachexplorer app, a digital form of citizen science activating general public involvement. Stefanie Lenz (National Park Authority “Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer”) and Silke Ahlborn (National Park Authority “Schleswig-Holsteinisches Wattenmeer”) provided insight to the Junior Ranger Programme and the interaction of children with nature topics. Klaus Melbye presented “Mit Vadehav”, a Danish programme that integrates the topic of the World Heritage Site with teaching materials for different subjects, such as math and Danish. Tim Dodman (Wadden Sea Flyway Initiative) provided examples of interactive exercises for movement in the audience, a method he uses when training site managers along the East Atlantic migratory birds.

This year’s final podium discussion was moderated by five children from the Junior Ranger Programme of the National Park “Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer”. The young Wadden Sea enthusiasts between 10 and 13 years asked representatives from research, schools, visitor organizations and NGOs for their opinions and solutions for the shortcomings of today's education. The loss of species experts and how to motivate new ones was also a topic. The event’s participants were truly impressed by the professional performance of this young group.

The Wadden Sea Day has been organised annually since 2006 with current topics by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat and the National Park Authority “Niedersächsisches Wattenmeer”.

The presentations of the day are made available upon consent of the speakers here.