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.

The group drafted a programme towards a darker sky in the Wadden Sea Region:

What to achieve? - The Aim

The aim of the programme is to maintain, to improve and to explore one of the key values of the Wadden Sea World Heritage Site, the darkness. Preservation and conservation of values start with awareness. Moreover, opportunities to experience those values lead to public support and, finally, to policies in order to secure good practices.

Therefore, the aim of the programme should be as follows:

  • Create more darkness and awareness accordingly;
  • Create more opportunities (places and moments) to experience and enjoy darkness;
  • Develop policies to incorporate the value of darkness in societal living.

What to do? - The Strategy

Recently, darkness is getting more and more attention, but initiatives are widely scattered. Furthermore, a learning process on sound collaboration just started. A bottom-up approach is crucial to gain acceptance, to create a long-lasting result and to reach a broad audience. In order to develop policies to better integrate the values of dark nights and skies in the assets of the Wadden Sea World Heritage site, political cooperation and support is crucial, too.

The strategy for a Darker Sky programme encompasses the following issues:

  • Exchange of knowledge and awareness raising;
  • Document the status of darkness in the respective regions;
  • Identify best practice examples and fields of actions for improvements
  • Enlarge the existing trilateral network;
  • Search for financial support;
  • Elaborate on mind settings (positive perceptions about darkness);
  • Implement measures to reduce light emissions;
  • Create places and moments to experience darkness;
  • Gain political support.

How to get there? - The Roadmap

In fact, there are potentially two ways to go. Either

  1. to create with partners a project proposal or
  2. to have darkness adopted as a key characteristic of the Wadden Sea World Heritage site.

If you are interested in working towards a darker sky in the Wadden Sea Region, do not hesitate to join us!

Meetings of the Dark Sky Initiative

1st Meeting – October 2019:
Kick-off meeting to start the Trilateral Dark Sky Initiative.

2nd Meeting – January 2020:
Compilation of existing initiatives and projects on Dark Sky in the Wadden Sea Region. Short presentation on already existing Dark Sky places in Germany.

3rd Meeting – Jun 2020:
First ideas for a trilateral symposium on Dark Sky, drafting a trilateral programme and presentation on light pollution measurement.

4th Meeting – November 2020:
Discussing the final draft of the programme, further planning of the symposium and working on Dark Sky factsheets.

5th Meeting – January 2021:
First draft of structure and content of the symposium (will be an online webinar in April 2021) and cooperation between the Dark Sky Initiative and the Partnership Hub in order to mount Dark Sky stronger to the OUV and the World Heritage as stated in Trilateral Governmental Declaration in Leeuwarden in 2018.

6th Meeting – 23 April 2021:
Online webinar took place with over 90 participants

7th Meeting – May 2021:
Review of the online webinar and discussions about organisational structures as well as project funding possibilities in the future.

8th Meeting – July 2021:
Working on existing policies and other instruments related to darkness and light pollution.

9th Meeting – October 2021:

10th Meeting – December 2021:
A two-days workshop is foreseen


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

Projects and Process in the Wadden Sea Region:
Programma naar een Rijke Waddenzee : 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

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