Harlisle (dpa) – At first glance, the Wadden Sea looks like an endless gray mud desert. life? rather rare. But appearances are deceiving. The Wadden Sea is one of the most fertile areas on Earth. Only in a few other areas is biodiversity greater.
More than 10,000 species of animals and plants live in the mudflats between Sylt and Borkum. “This incredibly high level of biodiversity is also one of the reasons why UNESCO recognized the area as a Natural World Heritage Site,” says Benedict Wiegering, biodiversity expert at the Wadden Sea Park Department in Lower Saxony.
Many species of animals and plants live in the Wadden Sea
Measured by the area of Germany, the beaches, dunes and salt marshes of the Wadden Sea make up only 0.03 percent of the total area – however, according to Weijering, about a quarter of all known plant species in Germany and five of all animal species are found in the Wadden Sea. There are five inhabitants that, although small in size, are also particularly important to the Wadden Sea because they serve as food for fish, shellfish and especially birds.
The national park administration calls them the “Little Five” – a reference to Africa’s largest animals known as the “Big Five”: elephant, lion, rhinoceros, buffalo and tiger. Meaning: beach crab, mud snail, cockle, North Sea shrimp and logworm.
Discover Small Five on a safari trip
Similar to the savannah, the “Small Five” can also be discovered on a safari, says Watt guide and national park expert Joke Pouliart of Wattwanderzentrum Ostfriesland in Harlesiel – specifically on “Watt’s Safari”. Many mudflat guides in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony offer mudflat tours around the five little creatures.
Expert advice can come in handy, because if you want to spot small animals on occasion, you have to dig into the mudflats carefully — and sometimes the tool comes in handy, Polliart explains. The expert also gives advice on trails you can use to find the “Small Five” on the Mud Plains. Because: “What you discover for yourself is connected more strongly to your consciousness,” says Poliart. Not only children, but adults as well can learn a lot in this way.
According to the National Park Administration, the Wadden Sea and the “Little Five” are of global significance, mainly due to the migration of birds east of the Atlantic. Millions of migratory birds are resting on their way from the breeding grounds of the Arctic to the wintering quarters of West Africa. Billions of logworms, mussels and algae serve as a food source. “The Wadden Sea is a huge buffet for birdsong,” Poliart says. Birds needed food to fly long distances of up to several thousand kilometers.
Mussels, worms, crabs and snails
The “little five” are perfectly adapted to their environment. Tides, salt water, storms, frost in winter, heat in summer – so do predators. Overview:
According to the Wadden Sea Conservation Station, the snail is probably the most common type of mussel. Empty half-grooved shells are often found on the beach. “If you look at the entire cochlea from the side, it looks somewhat like a heart,” Pouliart explains. The snail has a digging foot with which it can dig a few centimeters into the mudflats and protect itself from predators. But you can still find it by looking for small holes in the mud flats. Mussels filter plankton from the water they absorb. “They say all the mussels together filtered across the entire Wadden Sea within a week,” Poliart says.
The logworm is probably one of the most famous inhabitants of mudflats. In order to find it in the mudflats, the Bulliart needs a digging fork. Small, brown “spaghetti mounds” appear on the surface where the search is. “The loch worm should go to the toilet about every 45 minutes,” says the Flat Mud Guide. The worm sits in a U-shaped tube up to 30 cm deep in the soil. At one end, the sand absorbs and eats the nutrients it contains. In order to get rid of indigestible sand, he squeezes it back at the other end of the tube – he eats up to 25 kilograms of watts per year.
However, “sandy spaghetti” also shows birds where to look for logworms. The logworm knows how to defend itself, Polliart says. If you bite your ass during a bowel movement, it will grow back over time. By the way, the bollworm can breathe through the gills that open into the water.
The inshore crab is known for its lateral movement, which is why it is also called “Dwarsloper” (cross runner) in Low German. Crabs can break open shells and snails with their claws. When walking along the shore, empty crab shells are often found on the shore. Because until a beach lobster is fully grown, it must shed its skin several times – a hard shell cannot grow with it. By the way, when mating occurs in the summer, the males have to wait for the female to molt. “Mrs. Krebs has to take off her clothes before she gets to work,” says the guide with a smile.
– Brown shrimp is often colloquially called crab – but unlike lobster, it is not a broad-shelled crab, but belongs to the sandy shrimp family. They are found mainly in the Wadden Sea during the warm season, and in winter the animals migrate to the North Sea. Shrimp fishermen go out to hunt them, especially in the fall. For many Wat residents, it is also a treat. Brown prawns are grayish and translucent. Only after cooking it turns red.
– According to expert Bulliart, the mud snail is probably the fastest snail in the world. However, the tides also help. With the tidal current, the snails glide over the mudflats and thus graze the surface for nutrients. “Snails practically walk on their tongues.” Sometimes their tracks can also be seen on the tidal surface. Mud snails themselves are small in size – fully grown to a size of eight millimeters.
© dpa-infocom, dpa: 220804-99-271304/2