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Social and spatial economics

The Wadden Sea Region is characterised by a powerful interaction between man and nature. This applies both to the islands and to the coastal strip. The people who live there feel bound to the Wadden Sea Region and many make their living in the ecosystem of the tidal flats. The region contains a wide diversity of socio-economic activities. These activities range from fishing, agriculture, leisure and tourism, exploitation of natural resources such as oil and gas, to maintaining sea defences.

The ecosystem of the tidal flats bears the marks indicating the presence of man, both for the better and for the worse. On the one hand, the unique open landscape that we see today has been formed by nature and man together. On the other hand, a number of threats to the ecosystem of the tidal flats can be ascribed to man, such as land and water pollution and overfishing. The interaction between man and nature in the Wadden Sea Region implies that each must be regarded as dependent on the other.

From the perspective of social and spatial economics, the Wadden Sea Region challenges science to adapt existing economic ideas to a region with a very special economic, physical and spatial structure and institutional policy-related context. There are three main, interconnected subjects for research: the development of living, working and leisure activities; the conflicts between economics and ecology; and strategies for sustainable spatial development.

Examples of knowledge gaps and research needs are:

  • gaining an insight into trends in the regional economic situation in terms of production, sectoral structure, employment and sustainability;
  • developing regional economic models that can calculate how the Wadden Sea Region can adapt itself to global trends in the economy and external developments such as climate change or to shocks such as the credit crisis;
  • studying how to provide sufficient employment and income and a pleasant social climate for residents and care for the region?s natural and scenic values, which are also enjoyed by visitors;
  • developing the social cost-benefit analysis (SCBA) as a policy and decision-making tool.

The Social and spatial economics portfolio is held by Prof. dr. Pieter van Beukering