Following our 'Ditching Dikes' conference, the Young Wadden Academy acted as guest editor for a Special Issue of Noorderbreedte.

While mainly written in Dutch, the introduction is bilingual and english summaries are provided for all articles. Read the introduction written by the YWA here:

Life without dikes? After many centuries of dike building, we are facing substantial sea level rise. Reason enough to explore alternative concepts and ideas.

The dikes along the Wadden Sea coast are a familiar sight to anyone who visits the area and has been for centuries. They are the most visible component of our coastal defenses and have thus become icons for the near mythical 'battle against the water'. These dikes have constantly been elevated, renovated, and improved over the course of centuries. The construction of these dikes abruptly stopped the sedimentation process on the inland side. However, sedimentation has continued on the sea side and salt marshes have steadily and continuously 'grown'. The lack of further sedimentation was accompanied by sea level rise and soil subsidence. This has resulted in a constant, relative, lowering of the inland polders with respect to the sea water level. We could continue raising dikes ad infinitum, but only at high costs and risk for future generations. After many centuries of (predominantly) successful dike building, it is now necessary to look into alternative concepts and ideas.

All along the Wadden Sea coast, and across the globe, coastal engineers seek alternatives for static 'grey' dikes. Involving natural processes, 'building with nature', is one of the vital components of this new approach. This approach allows for the coast to not only be defended, but also to be part of the defense itself. This means that the land now sheltered behind the dikes, becomes part of a new type of coastal landscape. In this transformation the landscape will be valued for its economic potential and for its role as a defense structure. This more dynamic approach involves everyone connected with the coast.

This new approach requires a radical transformation of our present view of the coastal landscape. An old local proverb, 'build dikes or get out', is outdated, undesirable, and unnecessary. This prompted the Young Wadden Academy to initiate a process in which people are stimulated to look beyond the dikes. Obviously, we cannot do without them entirely, but we can make the transition from land to water more fluently.

In an area facing serious demographic and economic challenges, we must make the most of all available opportunities. The inhabitants of the Wadden Coast can choose to be world leaders in their response to rising sea levels. By showing a flexible attitude towards unavoidable changes there are numerous opportunities for both inhabitants and entrepreneurs. In this special issue of Noorderbreedte, we introduce you to various aspects of life in the Wadden Sea area without, or with 'different', dikes. Climate change and sea level rise are serious challenges indeed, but we are convinced that we are able to adapt to these challenges in a way that will produce new icons. We hope you will share our enthusiasm for these new opportunities.

 

noorderbreedte