Site details

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5 stars - Fully protected as a national park or Natura 2000 site by national legislation
LTBR Focal Site

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Tidal flats in the north of the island of Sylt. Marked is the Wattenmeerstation Sylt which is part of the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research. Photo: K Reise

Synoptic description of site:

Sandy barrier island in the northern Wadden Sea, with sandy and muddy tidal flats, seagrass beds, mussel beds, salt marshes, sandy beaches, sandy subtidal.

Extensive description of site:

The island of Sylt is located in the northern Wadden Sea (south-eastern North Sea). It comprises about 800 km2 Wadden Sea area as well as the adjacent coastal zone of the North Sea. The Sylt area is representative for large parts of the southeastern North Sea coast. It includes all major soft bottom habitats of the Wadden Sea; sandy and muddy tidal flats as well as extensive seagrass and mussel beds.

Habitats present:
Sublittoral XX
Seagrass bedsX

Description of fauna and flora:

On the island of Sylt biodiversity has been studied for more than 100 years. The concept “biocoenosis” was established by Karl Möbius (1877) as a result of his work on oyster beds in the area. Since then all major taxa have been studied. At present, a fundamental species knowledge is available which is being extended by current research. Long-term data form a unique documentation of changes in the biodiversity of the area.

Pristiness: High


Low economic impact, fisheries: moderate, no major local sources of pollutants and nutrients, eutrophication:moderate.

Human impact:

The Sylt area is one of the least impacted sites of the Wadden Sea. There is no adjacent industry. Mining, dumping and dredging does not happen. Commercial fishery is restricted to low shrimp trawling activity, an intertidal oyster culture (Crassostrea gigas) and subtidal mussel cultures (Mytilus edulis).


The island of Sylt is accessible by ferry, train and has an airport. The access is not seasonally limited. The laboratory facilities include running seawater, temperature constant rooms, diverse special laboratories and SEM. One research vessel and two zodiaks are in use. Another four research vessels of different size are available. Facilities for SCUBA diving are comprehensive; equipment, dive-boats and compressor are available. Near the laboratory a guest house provides six appartments and up to 20 dormitory beds for students and guest researchers.

Available database and website:

Records of marine species belonging to all taxa are incorporated in EXCEL on CD-ROM and are available on the website of the institute (

Datasets covering this area:


Commitment and ongoing research:

Biodiversity and long term research are important topics of the institutions science program. Therefore, part of the institutes budget is dedicated to biodiversity research.