Elbe Estuary - Germany

Complete description of case study





Title Elbe Estuary
National level Germany
Regional level Hamburg
Local level National Park Hamburgisches Wattenmeer


The Hamburgisches Wattenmeer National Park, with a surface area of c. 11,700ha, is situated in the estuary of the river Elbe.

The morphology of the Elbe estuaries has been altered in order to optimize their function as shipping routes and they have an overall tendency for sedimentation instead of erosion. This is mainly caused by an asymmetrical tidal period. Therefore, no major problems are found due to erosion and few measures are taken.

A major success was achieved when the artificial island of Nigehoern was colonized by migrating birds the first year after it was built. This island has more or less taken over the role of the rapidly shrinking island Scharhoern, so the loss of this tidal marsh island has been compensated for.

The salt marshes are being protected by several means, with an overall change to soft measures since the 1970s. The effect is difficult to assess, as the marshes also have a natural capacity to compensate for the effects of sea level rise and thus accrete and rise in level.


Coastal characteristics
  • Study area: 97 km
  • Type of coast: estuary, beaches (sand, saltmarshes and mud flats)
  • Tidal regime: meso tidal (3 m)
  • Other: sea level rise (prediction for future: 6 mm/y)
Policy options Hold the line
Socio-economic activities Shipping/transport, Tourism and recreation, Fisheries and aquaculture, Nature conservation.
Engineering techniques Revetments, creation saltmarshes from dredged material, outbanking of summer polders, groyne fields, artificial drainage, grazing.


Name Jacobus Hofstede
Institution Ministerium für ländliche Räume, Landesplanung, Landwirtschaft und Tourismus des Landes Schleswig-Holstein, Germany
Email Jacobus.Hofstede@MLR.LANDISH.DE