Dark Sky Initiative

“A Darker Sky in the Wadden Sea Region”

The Wadden Sea World Heritage is one of the areas in Europe where darkness is still a distinctive value. The Ministerial Declaration addressed the assets of a Dark Sky at the 13th Trilateral Governmental Conference, 18 May 2018, in Leeuwarden. Therein, it is stated “we, the ministers (are) aware of the potential of light emissions to impact on the Wadden Sea Area as well as the unique core quality and the importance of darkness for the ecosystem as well as for humankind”.

Within the Wadden Sea Region there are already two officially registered dark sky parks existing:
Lauwersoog (www.np-lauwersmeer.nl) and
Terschelling (darkskyterschelling.nl) in The Netherlands.

Two German Islands have now (Aug. 30, 2021) reached the status as "Star Island":
Spiekeroog (Lower Saxony, Germany) and
Pellworm (Schleswig-Holstein, Germany)
(Link IDA - Intern. DarkSky Association - Announcement)

The island of Mandø (Denmark) is still proceeding to reach this status.

End of 2019, a trilateral network has been formed, based on the before mentioned initiatives and the ministerial declaration. Started as informal group with approx. nine participants, the initiative grows up to more than 20 persons. One of the aims of the initiative is to initiate a bottom-up approach to involve municipalities and people living and working in the Wadden Sea Region. This should strengthen the political power and influence and finally improve the identity of the Region, which can support opportunities for touristic and, thus, sustainable economic development.

The Dark Sky Initiative does not aim at international certifications for the entire Wadden Sea Region, but wants to contribute on reducing light emissions, improving the experiences of dark nights and skies of a darker Wadden Sea Region. Awareness rising and changing mind sets are the first steps.

What about? - Darkness

The Wadden Sea’s Outstanding Universal Value (OUV) is that it is the largest tidal flat system in the world where natural processes proceed largely undisturbed. It is rich in species and one of the most important areas for migratory birds.

The Wadden Sea was designated as a World Heritage site based on three criteria: geological processes, ecological and biological processes and biodiversity. One of the Guiding Principles is “to achieve as far as possible, a natural and sustainable ecosystem in which natural processes proceed in an undisturbed way" (Joint Declaration, 2010).

The rhythm of day and night, and thus the appearance of darkness is, like the geological processes, an essential natural process that should be able to take place uninterruptedly across the Wadden Sea.

Plants and animals depend on Earth’s daily cycle of light and dark rhythm to govern life-sustaining behaviours such as reproduction, nourishment, sleep and protection from predators. Scientific evidence suggests that artificial light at night has negative and deadly effects on many creatures including amphibians, birds, mammals, insects and plants.

The last Quality Status Report of the CWSS (Landscape and culture) also mentioned that degradation of the horizon through decay of traditional qualities like nocturnal darkness is an ongoing and challenging threat.

The promotion of darkness will support the development of the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site.

Dark Sky Vision at TGC14 (30Nov2022) in Wilhelmshaven

The Trilateral Dark Sky Initiative is an example of the intensive involvement of partners and the enlargement of the existing Wadden Sea network. At the 14th Trilateral Governmental Conference in November 2022, over 40 representatives from the three countries signed the “Trilateral Dark Sky Vision over the Wadden Sea” – A sign that the importance of natural darkness as one of the processes that proceed undisturbed in the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site is more and more acknowledged.

The WSF also signed the "Trilateral Vision on Dark Sky over the Wadden Sea". Nocturnal darkness in the Wadden Sea Region shall be further protected and restored to improve the functioning of healthy, species-rich nocturnal environments while contributing to the sustainable development of the Wadden Sea Region. Starting in fall 2019, the WSF was originally running and lifting the Dark Sky initiative on trilateral level. In 2021, the Dark Sky initiative was handed over to the Trilateral Partnership Hub in order to secure the fruitful cooperation of relevant organisations and institutions in the Wadden Sea Region, i.e. governmental and non-governmental. The vision could be found here -> www.waddensea-secretariat.org


Further information on Dark Sky and light emission in the Wadden Sea Region (no guarantee for completeness):

Projects and Process in the Wadden Sea Region:
PRW - Experience the darkness: https://rijkewaddenzee.nl/en/experience-the-darkness/
PRW - Trilateral programme DARK SKY: https://rijkewaddenzee.nl/trilateraal-programma-dark-sky
Reduction of light emission – Wadden Agenda 2.0: www.ostfriesland.travel/verringerung-von-lichtverschmutzung
Dark Sky process Mandø: https://nationalparkvadehavet.dk/dark-sky
Nationalparkverwaltung Niedersachsen: https://www.nationalpark-wattenmeer.de/news/durch-die-nacht-am-wattenmeer/

Existing Dark Sky Parks in the Wadden Sea Region:
Dark Sky Park – Lauwersoog: www.np-lauwersmeer.nl/dark-sky-park
Dark Sky Park – Terschelling: https://darkskyterschelling.nl
Sterneninsel - Pellworm: www.pellworm.de/sterneninsel
Sterneninsel - Spiekeroog: www.spiekeroog.de/sterneninsel

Wadden Sea Harbours and light emission:
Nports (Lower Saxony): www.nports.de/nachhaltigkeitsbericht

final report of the project dark skies above the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage - WSF 2019

Dark Skies Above the UNESCO Wadden Sea World Heritage

Inventory of activities regarding the reduction of light emissions

Dark sky project proposal, final report

There are many local and regional initiatives to reduce light pollution and to raise awareness about dark skies. In 2015 a few government initiatives started along the Dutch Wadden Sea coast. Examples are “safe and illuminated” on Texel, “the stars nearer” in Noord-Holland, “Dark Sky Park Lauwersmeer” and “dimmable LED lights”. The idea was, to reach a dark landscape without additional policies by addressing innovation in light systems. This should stimulate entrepreneurs as well as municipalities to invest in advanced lighting systems and to reach positive effects on landscapes and well-being.

Download the full report