- 2nd Version for 2 primary sites combined -



Prof. Dr. Friedrich Buchholz, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Biologische Anstalt Helgoland, Postfach 180, 27483 Helgoland, Germany

e-mail address:

Prof. Dr. Karsten Reise, Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research, Wattenmeerstation Sylt, Hafenstraße 43, 25992 List/Sylt, Germany

e-mail address:


Proposed Primary Site: North Sea

The proposed primary site "North Sea" includes two locations. The islands and surrounding seas of Helgoland and of Sylt. Both islands are located in the south-eastern part of the North Sea (German Bight; 54° - 55° N, 07°30` - 08°30` E) enclosing rocky, sandy and muddy bottoms, seagrass beds, mussel beds, salt marshes and sandy beaches, estuarine and offshore waters.

PRISTINESS: Primary sites should be as free as possible from anthropogenic stressors, and natural stressors atypical of the region (e.g. reduced salinity, high turbidity).

List potential sources of pollution that are likely to impinge on the site:-

Industrial pollution: low, no adjacent industrial area. Only traces from estuarine input occur.

Agricultural pollution: locally negligible, remote sources only.

On the island of Helgoland no agriculture occurs.

On the island of Sylt agriculture is phased out.

Mining: no

Dumping: no

Dredging: no

What is the human population of the site in total and per unit area? What is the average population growth per year?

The human populations of the islands of Helgoland and Sylt are about 1600 inhabitants (1500/km2) and 21000 (212/km2), respectively. Both populations are more or less stable.

How is sewage disposed of? If possible give an estimate of the quantity and quality of the output.

All sewage of the islands of Helgoland and Sylt (about 3.200.000 m3) as well as of adjacent mainland receives tertiary treatment.

Describe the extent of commercial fishing in the area. Please specify the kinds of gear used (trawling, seine netting, lobster pots etc.)

No large-scale commercial fishery in the surrounding seas of both islands.

Only atrisanal fishery inside Helgoland’s nature reserve (ca. 10 fishermen).

Near Sylt local shrimp trawling activity occurs. Additionally, an intertidal oyster culture (Crassostrea gigas) (harvest is about 2 106 oysters per year) and subtidal mussel (Mytilus edulis) cultures (harvest is about 25 000 t per year) occur.

Give an account of tourist activities in the area (how many tourists per year; what do they do?).

The tourist activity on both islands is high (Helgoland 500.000 p.a.; Sylt 2.700.000 p.a.). Their main interests are outdoor actvities, especially recreation at the beach and shopping.

Access to the marine environment is by guided tours only.

Provide evidence that there are no natural stressors such as high turbidity or reduced salinity that are atypical of the region.

Since 1962, long term observations on the island of Helgoland have not indicated any atypical natural stressors in that area.

The Wadden Sea around the island of Sylt is a very dynamic area with a strong seasonal cycle. However, long term observations on temperature, salinity, turbidity and nutrients performed since 1984 show recurrent patterns. These data reveal no atypical stressors. A detailed description for the area is given by Gätje & Reise (1998).


Give references to any chemical or physical data that support the claim that this is a pristine site.


The relatively pristine character of the Helgoland area is evident from the long term observation series performed since 1962.


Whereas the influence of fisheries, mining, dredging and industries is relatively weak, eutrophication is one of the major stressors of the area. The Wadden Sea in general is strongly influenced by the eutrophication of the North Sea. Import of organic matter from the North Sea is the main source of eutrophication in most areas of the Wadden Sea (van Beusekom et al., 1999). This especially holds true for the Sylt-Rømø Bight, which receives only a small amount of freshwater run-off (e.g. Backhaus et al., 1998). A recent study (van Beusekom et al., in press) compared different parts of the Wadden Sea. Autumn ammonium plus nitrite concentrations appeared to be a good proxy for comparing the eutrophication status of the different areas. In comparison to other parts of the Wadden Sea, the Sylt area is one of the least eutrophicated areas of the Wadden Sea (eastern Dutch Wadden Sea: NH4 + NO2: 16.7 µ mol-1; North Sylt Wadden Sea: 11.8 µ mol-1).


HABITATS: The site should comprise a mosaic of habitats in a well-defined area that are representative of the region.

List the range of habitats present at the site:-

Helgoland area:



1 km2


0.5 km2


0.01 km2



30 km2


15 km2


5 km2

Seagrass beds:

0.01 km2


Sylt area:



No natural rock present, only some artificial hard substrates occur at harbours, causeways, dikes and some breakwaters.


Sandy tidal flats are the dominant habitats of the area and cover about 70% of the intertidal zone (total intertidal area 135 km2).


Areas of muddy sand and mud comprise 25% and 3% of the intertidal zone, respectively.

Seagrass bed:

Seagrass beds are mainly restricted to the intertidal zone and cover about 12%. Two species of seagrass (Zostera marina, Zostera noltii) occur. Mussel beds (Mytilus edulis) cover 1 % of the intertidal area. 60 % of the shoreline are sandy beaches, 20 % are salt marshes, and the rest includes special habitats such as structures of coastal defence.



Scattered boulders from the ice age provide limited hard bottoms in the subtidal zone. As in the intertidal zone, some artificial hard substrate is present.


Sandy sediments dominate the subtidal zone (total subtidal area 269 km2)



Seagrass beds:

Subtidal seagrass beds (Zostera marina) disappeared in the 1930s due to an infection by a slime mould (Labyrinthula zosterae).

How representative is this site of its region (i.e. what regional habitats are missing)?

The two sites include all major habitats of the North Sea.

The Helgoland area mainly represents rocky shores while

the Sylt area is a soft sediment environment with all major habitats of the Wadden Sea.

Transitions between sediment types can be ideally studied along transects from Helgoland towards the Wadden Sea.

BACKGROUND INFORMATION: The site should already be well-studied (i.e. biodiversity studies should not rely entirely on new research).

For what groups of organisms are comprehensive inventories available? Please list major taxa in each category below, and list publications.

Macrobenthos, zooplankton, phytobenthos and phytoplankton are well studied at both stations, Helgoland and Sylt.

In terms of micro-and meiobenthos the Sylt area is one of the best studied locations in the world (record of about 900 species).

For further information see below.


Comprehensive list in first questionnaire




The macrozoobenthos has been studied since 1869. Major investigated taxa are bivalves; polychaetes; gastropods; crustaceans (e.g. Möbius 1893; Hagmeier & Kändler 1927; Wohlenberg 1937; Reise 1985; Reise et al. 1994)

Macrophytobenthos (green, brown and red algae; Zostera spp.) has been studied since the 1890’s (Reinbold 1893). Further studies were made by Nienburg (1927); Kornmann (1952), Reise et al. (1989), Schories et al. (1997) and Buschbaum (2001).

Meiobenthos and Microbenthos:

The meiobenthos has been studied intensively since the 1960s and > 900 species were identified. Major taxa are nematodes, plathelminths, copepods, polychaetes and ostracods (e.g. Schmidt 1968; Ax 1969; Reise 1988; Armonies & Reise 2000; also see the series "Mikrofauna des Meeresbodens", vol. 1-90 (1979-1983), since 1984 proceeded by Microfauna Marina; most of the papers are dedicated to the meiofauna of the Sylt area.


Zooplankton has been studied since the 1940s (Künne 1952). Major investigated taxa are copepods (e.g. Hickel 1975; Martens 1980), scyphomedusae, hydromedusae, ctenophora (Kopacz 1994) and ciliates. In addition, much work was done on planktonic larvae of macrobenthic organisms such as bivalves, gastropods and polychaetes are well studied (Strasser 2000).


Macrophytobenthos see above.

Microphytobenthos species composition has been studied by Asmus & Bauerfeind (1994), Agatz et al. (1999) and Hoppenrath (2000). Major investigated taxa are diatoms, dinoflagellates and euglenophyceae.


The phytoplankton composition has been studied by Drebes & Elbrächter (1976) and Martens & Elbrächter (1998). Major studied taxa are diatoms and dinoflagellates.

Phytoplankton composition has been monitored weekly since 1988. Supporting hydrographical and chemical data have been monitored since 1984.

List any other publications relating specifically to the biodiversity or environment at the site.

For the Sylt area an overview is available by Gätje & Reise 1998.

List publications relating to historical/time-series data at the site.


Data are partly available by PANGEA, publication list in 1st questionnaire





Möbius 1893; Reinbold 1893; Hagmeier & Kändler 1927; Nienburg 1927; Wohlenberg 1935, 1937; Hagmeier 1941; Kornmann 1952; Reise et al. 1989; Reise 1994; Schories et al. 1997.

Is biodiversity information available in electronic form? If so, what is the nature of the database (CD-ROM, web-site)?

Information on biodiversity is partly available by PANGEA (Helgoland) and will be available as a CD-ROM and as a web-site in 2002 (Sylt).

PROTECTION STATUS: The pristine nature of the site should be protected by legislation if it is to be a "flagship site" for future monitoring.

What conservation legislation (national, European, international) is currently in place, how well is it implemented and how long will it last?

The Helgoland area is a National Nature Reserve which is a permanent protection status.

The Sylt area is a National Park; national nature reserve and belongs to Ramsar and FFH.

The conservation legislation is in place and implemented. It is expected to stay in place indefinitely.

The marine area is under nature conservation by a national park since 1985, extended seaward in 2000. It is a national nature reserve, and the Ramsar convention applies to the National Park; some parts of the adjacent mainland and areas further offshore in the North Sea are proposed to become a FHH (Fauna Flora Habitat) status by the EU Commission.

Implementation is rigid. Exploitation of living marine resources is limited to traditional fisheries. Some physical disturbance is caused by sand replenishment operations at the beaches.

FACILITIES: The infrastructure for biodiversity research should be available. There should also be a national commitment in terms of financing and scientific activity (i.e funding should not be entirely dependent on the success of any future EU programme).

How accessible is the location?

Is it limited seasonally (e.g. not accessible in winter)?

Is it accessible by car or by boat (indicate means of transport and distance from laboratory facilities in km)?

The islands of Helgoland and Sylt are both accessible by ferry and have an airport. The access is not seasonally limited.

In addition, the island of Sylt has a train connection via a causeway to the mainland. Laboratory facilities of both stations can be easily reached.


What is the status of local facilities:-


The biological institute on Helgoland exists since 1892. In 1924, the Wadden Sea Station Sylt became established. Research activities are year-round. Since 1998, both stations are part of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. At present the stations have about 100 employees including 20 senior scientist positions. Regular teaching of student classes occurs during summer. Biodiversity and long term research is a major part of the institutions’ research programme.


Five research vessels of different size are available the whole year. In addition, some zodiaks are in use.

Are these facilities available for guest researchers?


What facilities are there for SCUBA diving?

Complete equipment for SCUBA-diving is available.

What housing is available?

Both stations own a guest house for students and guest researchers. Up to 30 beds are available on Sylt and up to 80 on Helgoland.

List the sources of funding currently in place specifically for biodiversity research at this site (from where and how much).

Part of the institutes budget is dedicated to biodiversity research (about 500 T-Euro per year). Foreign guest researchers on Sylt are funded by the DAAD (about 50 T-Euro per year)

List by name the persons currently involved in biodiversity research at this site, their roles and the percentage of their time spent on this research.


Dr. Karen Wiltshire (scientist); phytoplankton, nutrients, hydrography (100 %)

Dr. Christian Schütt (scientist); Mikrobial-Plankton (30 %)

Dr. Maarten Boersma (scientist); zooplankton (70 %)

Dr. Friedrich Buchholz (head of inst.); functional biodiversity, zooplankton, zoobenthos (70 %)

Dr. Mona Hoppenrath (post-doc); phytoplankton, microphytobenthos; 100 %

Dr. Inka Bartsch (scientist); macroalgae (50 %)

Dr. Dieter Hanelt (scientist); macroalgae (60 %)


Dr. Werner Armonies (scientist); meio- and macrobenthos; 60%

Dr. Harald Asmus (scientist); species diversity fish and macrobenthos; 80%

Dr. Ragnhild Asmus (scientist); species diversity micro- and macrophytobenthos; 50%

Dr. Justus van Beusekom (scientist); dynamics and species diversity phytoplankton; 50%

Dr. Christian Buschbaum (post-doc); dynamics and species diversity macroalgae and macrozoobenthos; 80%

Dr. Malte Elbrächter (permanent guest researcher); taxonomy of dinoflagellates and diatoms; 100%

Dr. Mona Hoppenrath (post-doc); phytoplankton, microphytobenthos; 100 %

Prof. Dr. Klaus Lüning (scientist); species diversity macroalgae; 30 %

Dr. Peter Martens (scientist); species diversity and dynamics zooplankton; 30%

Iris Menn (PhD-student); meiobenthos sandy beaches; 100%

Prof. Dr. Karsten Reise (head of the institute); population dynamics and benthic species diversity; 60%

Dr. Matthias Strasser (post-doc); dynamics and species diversity macrozoobenthos and zooplankton; 60 %



Please use this section to add any additional supporting comments, for example what do you think is special about your site from the biodiversity point of view, why is it important to monitor biodiversity there, and what is the public awareness of this?

The two sites, Helgoland and Sylt are 65 km apart, and together include all major and important habitats of the North Sea down to a depth of 55 m.

The rocky shores of the island of Helgoland are the only hard bottom environments in the south-eastern part of the North Sea and can be considered as a biodiversity oasis and focal point of hard bottom communities.

The Wadden Sea Station Sylt is located within one of the largest sediment shores of the world. The Wadden Sea is of international importance. Millions of wading birds depend on the food sources of the Wadden Sea during their annual migration. Presently it is being discussed as a "world heritage site".

On the islands of Helgoland and Sylt biodiversity studies has been lasting for more than 100 years. Since then all major taxa in the areas have been examined. At present, a fundamental species knowledge is available. It is extended by current research. Long-term data form a unique documentation of changes in biodiversity at both sites. An additional focus of research are biological invaders.

The location of both institutes allows rapid access to all major habitats, in both inshore and offshore directions. Laboratory facilities include guest houses, running seawater, temperature constant rooms, diverse special laboratories, SEM, molecular and physiological equipment.

In the research programme of the Alfred Wegener Institute, long term studies on biodiversity play a significant role. Time series on nutrient dynamics and the hydrography of the Helgoland and Sylt area support the biodiversity research. Standard surveys are permanently covered by the resources of the institute. Funding needs to be requested for selected topics, i.e. revisiting sites studied decades ago or for reinvestigating taxonomic groups not included in the standard surveys.


References (for Helgoland, see also 1st questionnaire):

Agatz M, Asmus RM, Deventer B (1999) Structural changes in the benthic diatom community along a eutrophication gradient on a tidal flat. Helgol Mar Res 53: 92-101

Armonies W, Reise K (2000) Faunal diversity across a sandy shore. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 196: 49-57

Asmus R (1982) Field measurements on seasonal variation of the activity of primary producers on a sandy tidal flat in the northern Wadden Sea. Neth J Sea Res 16: 389-402

Asmus RM, Bauerfeind E (1994) The microphytobenthos of Königshafen – spatial and seasonal distribution on a sandy tidal flat. Helgol Meeresunters 48: 257-276

Ax P (1969) Populationsdynamik, Lebenszyklen und Fortpflanzungsbiologie der Mikrofauna des Meeressandes. Verh Dtsch Zool Ges Innsbruck 1968: 66-113

Backhaus, J., D. Hartke, U. Hübner, H. Lohse & A. Müller (1998). Hydrographie und Klima im Lister Tidebecken. In: Gätje C, Reise K (Eds.) Ökosystem Wattenmeer Austausch-, Transport- und Stoffumwandlungsprozesse. Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg, pp39-54.

Buschbaum C (2001) Siedlungsmuster und Wechselbeziehungen von Seepocken (Cirripedia) auf Muschelbänken (Mytilus edulis L.) im Wattenmeer. PhD-thesis. University of Hamburg, Germany, 144 pp.

Drebes G, Elbrächter M (1976) A checklist of planktonic diatoms and dinoflagellates from Helgoland and List (Sylt), German Bight. Botanica Marina 19: 75-83

Gätje Ch, Reise K (1998) Ökosystem Wattenmeer; Austausch-, Transport-, und Stoffumwandlungsprozesse Springer, Berlin, 570 pp.

Hagmeier A (1941) Die intensive Nutzung des Nordfriesischen Wattenmeeres durch Austern- und Muschelkultur. Z Fisch 39: 105-165

Hagmeier A, Kändler R (1927) Neue Untersuchungen im nordfriesischen Wattenmeer und auf den fiskalischen Austernbänken. Wiss Meeresunters (Abt. Helgoland) 16: 1-90

Hickel W (1975) The mesozooplankton in the Wadden Sea of Sylt (North Sea). Helgol Meeresunters 27: 254-262

Hoppenrath M (2000) Taxonomische und ökologische Untersuchungen von Flagellaten mariner Sande. PhD-thesis, University of Hamburg, Germany, 311 pp.

Kopacz U (1994) Gelatinöses Zooplankton (Scyphomedusae, Hydromedusae, Ctenophora) und Chaetognatha im Sylter Seegebiet. PhD-thesis, University of Göttingen, Germany, 146 pp.

Kornmann P (1952) Die Algenvegetation von List auf Sylt. Helgol wiss Meeresunters 4: 55-61

Künne C (1952) Untersuchungen über das Großplankton in der Deutschen Bucht und im Nordsylter Wattenmeer. Helgol Wiss Meeresunters 4:1-54

Martens P (1980) Beiträge zum Mesozooplankton des Nordsylter Wattenmeeres. Helgol Meeresunters 34: 41-53

Martens P, Elbrächter M (1998) Temporal and Spatial variability of micronutrients and plankton in the Sylt-Rømø Wadden Sea. In: Ökosystem Wattenmeer; Austausch-, Transport-, und Stoffumwandlungsprozesse (Gätje Ch, Reise K ed.) Springer, Berlin, 570 pp.

Möbius K (1877) Die Auster und die Austernwirtschaft. berlin: Wiegandt, Hempel und Parey

Möbius K (1893) Über die Tiere der schleswig-holsteinischen Austernbänke, ihre physikalischen und biologischen Lebensverhältnisse. Sber Preuss Akad Wiss 7: 33-58

Nienburg W (1927) Zur Ökologie der Flora des Wattenmeeres. I. Teil. Der Königshafen bei List auf Sylt. Wiss Meeresunters (Abt. Kiel) 20: 146-196

Reinbold T (1893) Bericht über die im Juni 1892 ausgeführte botanische Untersuchung einiger Distrikte der Schleswig-Holsteinischen Nordseeküste. Komm wiss Unters dtsch Meeres 6(3): 251-252

Reise K (1985) Tidal flat ecology. Springer, Berlin, 191 pp.

Reise K (1988) Plathelminth diversity in littoral sediments around the island of sylt in the North Sea. Progress in Zoology 36: 469-480

Reise K, Herre E, Sturm M (1989) Historical changes in the benthos of the Wadden Sea around the island of Sylt in the North Sea. Helgol Meeresunters 43: 417-433

Reise K, Herre E, Sturm M (1994) Biomass and abundance of macrofauna in intertidal sediments of Königshafen in the northern Wadden Sea. Helgol Meeresunters 48: 201-215

Schmidt P (1968) Die quantitative Verteilung und Populationsdynamik des Mesopsammons am Gezeitenstrand der Nordseeinsel Sylt. I. Faktorengefüge und biologische Gliederung des Lebensraumes. Int Rev ges Hydrobiol 53: 723-779

Schories D, Albrecht A, Lotze H (1997) Historical changes and inventory of macroalgae from Königshafen bay in the northern Wadden Sea. Helgol Meeresunters 51: 321-341

Strasser M (2000) Rekrutierungsmuster ausgewählter Wattfauna nach unterschiedlich strengen Wintern. Berichte zur Polar- und Meeresforschung 377: 127 pp.

Van Beusekom JEE, Brockmann UH, Hesse K-J, Hickel W, Poremba K, Tillmann U (1999) The importance of sediments in the transformation and turnover of nutrients and organic matter in the Wadden Sea and German Bight. Ger. J. Hydrogr. 51: 245-266

Van Beusekom JEE, Fock H, de Jong F, Diel-Christiansen S, Christiansen B (in press). Wadden Sea Specific Eutrophication Criteria. Common Wadden Sea Secretariat, Wilhlemshaven, Germany.

Wohlenberg E (1935) Beobachtungen über das Seegras, Zostera marina, und seine Erkrankung im Nordfriesischen Wattenmeer. Nordelbingen 11: 1-19

Wohlenberg E (1937) Die Wattenmeer-Lebensgemeinschaften im Königshafen von Sylt. Helgol wiss Meeresunters 1: 1-92