Sustainable Coastal Land Management: Trade-offs in Ecosystem Services


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Project period: April 2011 - December 2016


Project description:

Climate change threatens North-west Europe´s coastal areas primarily through accelerated sea-level rise, increasing storm surges, and increasing winter rainwater discharge. Today’s coastal land management is based on the protection against floods by sea walls and groundwater regulation by drainage. Accelerating sea-level rise and changes in hydrological cycles are likely to affect coastal ecosystems and may restrict the efficiency of thesemeasures in the future.

COMTESS will perform an inter- and transdisciplinary investigation of four scenarios, applied to a North Sea and a Baltic Sea coastalregion in Germany:

(1) Water management: Construction of second coastal defense lineswithin the hinterland instead of heightening the primary sea wall and formation of freshwater polders enclosed by the primary and secondary dike line. Primary aims of this scenario are to restrict flooding to the polder area in case of limited breaches, to increase freshwater retention for use in dry periods, to prevent subsurface salt water intrusion, and to use reedsfor green energy.

(2) Carbon sequestration: Similar to the first scenario but polders willbe extensively covered with reed fens to yield active peat formation.

(3) Trend: Dairy farming and grassland as usual. However, flood events may substantially disrupt land useand incur higher drainage costs, thus reducing the ecological and economic viability of this land management.

Each scenario implies the prioritization of certain ecosystem services (e.g. water management vs. carbon sequestration vs. food production) as well as synergies or trade-offs with other ecosystem services (e.g. biodiversity vs. green energy production). COMTESS will quantify and evaluate the performance of multiple ecosystem functions and services in each scenario in socio-economic and ecological terms. The Sustainability Economics Group will provide an economic valuation and risk analysis of the land management scenarios.


Principal investigators:

University of Oldenburg, University of Braunschweig, University of Potsdam, University of Rostock, University of Hohenheim, University of Greifswald.



Prof. Dr. Stefan Zerbe and Prof. Dr. Marco Baratieri, University of Bozen

Dr. Ingolf Stodian, Nationalpark Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft

Birgit Fasting, Nationalpark and Biosphere Reserve Wadden Sea of Lower Saxony

Dr. Rasmus Ejrnæs, Danish National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus

Dr. Tjeerd Bouma, Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW)


Contact persons: Prof. Dr. Stefan Baumgärtner, Dr. A.M. Tanvir Hussain


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