Elbe Estuary and Port of Hamburg. Photo Elisabeth Klocke.

“Embracing Estuaries – Management of Natura 2000 sites in Estuaries and Sea Ports”, a two-day workshop taking place on 15 and 16 September 2016, will be a vital part of the Biogeographical Process of the Atlantic Region. The workshop’s main goal is to encourage dialogue between scientists, practitioners and policymakers, and to encourage their collaboration on the challenges of managing Natura 2000 sites and implementing management plans in estuaries and sea ports.

A transnational challenge – implementing Natura 2000 management plans in European Atlantic Estuaries and Sea Ports

This networking event is aimed at experts from EU Member States from the Atlantic Biogeographical Region, as well as representatives from the European Commission and cooperating institutions. The Elbe Habitat Foundation welcomes attendees involved with or interested in any topic related to estuarine management, such as representatives from port authorities, water management bodies, coastal management bodies, environmental organisations, local/regional governments, etc. The objective is to identify ideas, best practice examples, challenges and solutions regarding four main topics:

Natura 2000 Management Plans – Integrated Approaches & Implementation

Facing challenges and learning from experiences

In Session I, six internationally renowned speakers will share their experiences in implementing Natura 2000 management plans in various European estuaries. The main questions include: How have the interests of third parties been integrated into Natura 2000 management plans? What measures have been effective, and why? Which obstacles have or had to be overcome to achieve the management plans’ objectives? Are there gaps between management plans’ goals and the day-to-day reality of practical experience? And what kind of challenges in estuarine management lie ahead? Following the presentations, all attendees will be invited to discuss the speakers’ ideas, proposals and further questions in small groups.

Habitat Restoration

Practical examples: restoring European estuarine habitats

In Session II, “Habitat Restoration”, three speakers will present examples of restoration projects in European estuaries. Case studies will show ideas, experiences and achievements in restoring natural habitats and requirements for the future. Following the presentations, attendees will be invited to discuss specific questions in small groups.

Legal Issues

Getting it right: European legislation, challenges and contradictions

The legal framework for estuary regulation is set. Still, there are a lot of issues that need to be discussed: How can practitioners draw the line between mitigation and compensation and how can they, in practice, react to the particular challenge of Article 6(4) of the Habitat Directive (HD)? How can “temporary nature” be created in accordance with the HD? How can a favourable conservation status be achieved in estuaries with major shipping lanes? These and other questions will be presented or discussed in working groups following the presentations.


Getting through to the public: Do you speak “Estuarine”?

In the fourth session, “Communication”, three expert speakers will provide valuable insight into communication concepts and participation efforts. What methods or models of cooperation and communication among stakeholders exist? How do you effectively communicate measures for implementing management plans to the public, and raise awareness? How do you get key stakeholders to buy into the plan? Which strategies for explaining complex matters have been successful, and which strategies have failed, been counterproductive or simply less effective? Finally, how can experts and participants of the Biogeographical Process be encouraged to continue exchanging their experiences? This session will also be followed by discussions in small groups.


Complementing the Programme – Meet the Elbe Estuary

In addition to keynote speeches and discussions, attendees will be given the opportunity to experience the wonder of the Elbe estuary first-hand on a field trip to Heuckenlock Nature Reserve and to the Kreetsand project on Thursday, 15 September. Both sites are located in the heart of the inner estuary, on the Elbe island of Hamburg-Wilhelmsburg. They are both part of the Natura 2000 network.

Heuckenlock Nature Reserve features a tidal alluvial forest, tidal creeks and freshwater mudflats. It also hosts the Elbe water dropwort (Oenanthe conioides), an endemic plant threatened with extinction and listed in Annex IV HD.

In Kreetsand, a habitat restoration project is being implemented: a dyke was realigned in order to create tidal habitats such as shallow water zones and freshwater mudflats. This project is listed in the Natura 2000 management plan of the Elbe estuary and also serves as a compensation measure. Buses will take participants to these sites. Participants must register for the field trip beforehand.


Where we stand – Keeping Track of the Atlantic Biogeographical Process

The “Embracing Estuaries” workshop is part of the international Atlantic Biogeographical Process, launched at an international seminar in December 2012 that took place in Bergen, the Netherlands. Around 80 representatives from all Member States were asked to propose specific recommendations for improving the conservation status of priority target habitats and to initiate cross-border activities. Since Germany was leading the working group on estuaries, its representatives offered to host a networking event on Natura 2000 estuary management planning. The Elbe Habitat Foundation is organising the Embracing Estuaries event on their behalf.