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The salt meadows by the Wadden Sea

The salt meadows are characteristic of the landscape by the Wadden Sea. They are dynamic, and an example of how human activity can benefit plants, insects and birds.

A salt meadow is a special habitat type found close to the coast. The area is characterised by low vegetation, which is affected by sea salt from flooding or from the air. The word ‘meadow’ is associated with human use of the area, and it is only a meadow as long as the vegetation is kept down by grazing animals or hay-making. If unexploited, the meadow will turn into a bog, swamp or scrub.

Dynamic landscape

In the Wadden Sea, salt affects the meadows more than along the eastern coasts of Denmark. Also, the landscape is generally more dynamic. Tides and storms create new salt meadows, while other meadows erode faster than anywhere else in Denmark. The salt impact is greatest in the salt meadow zone closest to the coast, whereas the impact generally lessens higher up. However, it is not quite as simple as that. Depressions at the upper part of the salt meadow may turn out to be the most affected by salt. After flooding, small isolated pools, known as salt pannes, are formed. When the water evaporates from the pannes, it leaves a high concentration of salt.

If the meadow is highly impacted by salt, many plant species, such as tall bushes, cannot grow there, and vegetation will then only consist of characteristic salt-meadow plants.

Grazing ensures diversity

However, reeds can invade and turn the meadow into a so-called reed swamp. This habitat is of great importance to reed-bed birds, such as the bearded reedling and the marsh harrier, but the reed swamp is far poorer in species diversity than the open salt meadow. To create an open meadow with low vegetation, the area may need to be grazed. Grazing and the mere presence of livestock furthers the biodiversity of the meadow in two ways. Firstly, the grazing gives light to a multitude of low-growing plants and the insects that depend on these plants. Secondly, the trampling of animals constantly forms divots in the soil where specialised species can grow.

 

Furthermore, the numerous insects in the grazed meadows are a source of food for typical meadow birds, such as lapwing and oystercatcher.

Plants on the salt meadow

A number of plants have adapted in different ways to the salty environment on the salt meadow. They face some common challenges, which they address in different ways. Curiously enough, each individual plant must be able to accumulate larger concentrations of salt in its cells than the surrounding soil. If this was not possible, water would travel from the plant into the soil in order to maintain the salt balance. On the other hand, the concentration of salt should not reach a level where the plant is poisoned. The beautiful beach starwort solves this problem by collecting the salt in older leaves, which then die and fall off. Other plants, such as the sea lavender and rice grass, remove the salt though glands on the underside of their leaves. 


Guided tour

Go on a guided tour with one of the National Park’s experienced tour operators.

Varde

NaturKulturVarde

Roustvej 111, 6800 Varde

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    +45 75 22 22 50

Oksbøl

Naturguiden

Adresse Ukendt

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    +45 75 27 19 15

Fanø

Strandskaden

Dagmarsvej 10, 6720 Fanø

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    +45 30 20 25 43

Ribe

Vadehavscentret

Okholmvej 5, Vester Vedsted, 6760 Ribe

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    +45 75 44 61 61

Bredebro

Vadehavssmedjen

Bunti 18, 6261 Bredebro

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    +45 29 72 74 26

Løgumkloster

Tønder egnens guider

Dravedvej 6 B, 6240 Løgumkloster

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    +45 74 74 42 45

Rømø

Naturcenter Tønnisgård

Havnebyvej 30, 6792 Rømø

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    +45 74 75 52 57

Møgeltønder

Sort Safari

Slotsgaden 19, 6270 Tønder

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    +45 73 72 64 00

Oksbøl

Naturstyrelsen

Ålholtvej 1, 6840 Oksbøl

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    +45 72 54 30 00


Visit

If you want to learn more, visit one of the National Park’s exciting exhibition venues.

Marbæk

Myrthue

Myrtuevej 39, 6710 Esbjerg V

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    +45 76 16 81 00

Ribe

Vadehavscentret

Okholmvej 5, Vester Vedsted, 6760 Ribe

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    +45 75 44 61 61

Rømø

Naturcenter Tønnisgård

Havnebyvej 30, 6792 Rømø

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    +45 74 75 52 57