The Wadden Sea: Google Doodle to celebrate UNESCO World Heritage Site
Today's Google animated Doodle celebrates the Wadden Sea, the world's largest network of intertidal sand and mudflats, which spans the coastlines of the Netherlands, Germany, and Denmark. It lies between the coast of northwestern continental Europe and the range of low-lying Frisian Islands, forming a shallow body of water with tidal flats and wetlands. It has a high biological diversity and is an important area for both breeding and migrating birds.
On this day in 2009, UNESCO designated the Wadden Sea a World Heritage Site in recognition of its unparalleled ecological and geological importance and the decades of effort dedicated to its preservation.
Created by storms during the 14th and 15th centuries, the Wadden Sea is a relatively young wetland environment that comprises one of the world's last remaining undisturbed intertidal ecosystems. This magnificent stretch of sea and sand houses numerous plant and animal species, including the grey seal and harbor porpoise.
The Wadden Sea is famous for its rich flora and fauna, especially birds. Hundreds of thousands of waders, ducks, and geese use the area as a migration stopover or wintering site. It is also a rich habitat for gulls and terns, as well as a few species of herons, Eurasian spoonbills, and birds-of-prey, including a small and increasing breeding population of white-tailed eagles. Considered one of the most critical regions globally for migratory birds, it's estimated that the wetlands are visited by over 10 million African-Eurasian birds annually and can harbor up to 6.1 million birds at once!
However, the biodiversity of Wadden Sea is smaller today than it once was; for birds, greater flamingos and Dalmatian pelicans used to be common as well, at least during the Holocene climatic optimum when the climate was warmer. Some regionally extinct species are still found here.
The Wadden Sea isn't just a pristine habitat for wildlife—popular ways human visitors enjoy the scenery include exploring the mudflats at low tide or touring the barrier islands by boat. However, tourists need to respect the site's essential role in maintaining global biodiversity.
Current conservation efforts are grounded in a strategic partnership between UNESCO, environmental NGOs, the Wadden Sea Forum, and the governments of Denmark, Germany, and the Netherlands so that future generations can enjoy this natural phenomenon.
Here's to the Wadden Sea and preserving over 4,000 square miles of the natural world!