With the North Sea to the north of the Wadden Islands, the islands, the Wadden Sea between the islands and the coast and the coastal zone of the mainland as its main elements, the Wadden Sea Region is characterised by its powerful dynamics. The present condition and dynamic characteristics of the tidal flat system are the cumulative result of processes deep in the earth, near and on the surface and in the atmosphere, which take place on different space and time scales. Changes to the surface of the tidal flat system are caused by natural processes and by recent human activities.
Geoscientific data, information and knowledge, including the modelling and quantifying of geological processes in time and space, are needed to achieve the goal of managing the Wadden Sea Region in a sustainable manner. This includes the natural system, the safety of inhabitants and the economic yields generated by natural resources such as groundwater, salt and natural gas. The Wadden system cannot, of course, be viewed in isolation, it must be regarded as a part of larger natural systems.
Three connected themes can be identified in the development of the Wadden Sea Region in time and space: Wadden Sea Region Subsurface, Wadden Sea Region Evolution and Wadden Sea Morphodynamics.
Examples of knowledge gaps and research needs for each of these themes are:
- Wadden Sea Region Subsurface: detailed knowledge of the geological composition and structure of the subsurface and physical-chemical properties of rocks, faults and fluids;
- Wadden Sea Region Evolution: a reconstruction of the morphological development of the Wadden Sea Region; and
- Wadden Sea Morphodynamics : better understanding of the sediment balance, including the impact of sand suppletions and the role of ecosystem engineers; a description of the dynamics of tidal inlet systems.
The Geoscience portfolio is held by Dr. Hessel Speelman.