Options for socioeconomic developments in ICZM for the tri-national Wadden area
The authors are: Jouke van Dijk, Chair of the Board of the Waddenacademie, together with Lourens Broersma and Nora Mehnen from the Faculty of Spatial Sciences of the University of Groningen.
The Wadden Sea Forum has adopted integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) as a process for achieving the sustainable development of the Wadden Sea in a way that is environmentally sound, economically viable and socially beneficial. This requires, besides information about the ecosystem, also information and analysis of recent demographic and socioeconomic developments in the entire trilateral (with parts in the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark) Wadden region at the very detailed spatial scale of municipalities bordering the Wadden Sea.
We find that the area suffers from population decline and an ageing population due to selective migration processes. As a result, the potential labour force is declining. The number of jobs in the Wadden region is also declining and unemployment is relatively high. The regional economic structure of the trilateral Wadden area is very diverse and differs substantially from the national economic structure. However, even within the Wadden area, there are substantial economic differences over space between the islands and the coast, but also between neighbouring municipalities within the coastal areas.
For a vital regional economy, any economic development should be targeted at activities that do not have a negative effect on the ecosystem and that can be employed at an economic and spatial scale that fits the natural environment and matches the type of skills and jobs of the inhabitants. Our analysis shows that within sectors such as agriculture, fishing, tourism and personal and business services there are many types of activities that fit within these limitations that could be used to foster a vital regional economy in the Wadden region. Further, jobs can be created further away from the coastal zone as long as these jobs are created in urban areas within a reasonable commuting distance. Large-scale industrial activities in the Wadden area should be discouraged and, if necessary, only be allowed in the present industrial zones provided any potential damage to the ecosystem can be avoided.
Given these pressures and management challenges, if ICZM in the broader sense is to be achieved, insights are needed into the combined ecological and socioeconomic (valuation) system of the whole Wadden Sea area in order to design science-based management support and monitoring systems. The essential characteristics of this approach are strongly interdisciplinary and require a focus on aspects of scale and cumulative processes to monitor and manage the impacts of autonomous processes and human activities on the unique natural values of the Wadden UNESCO World Heritage site.
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