GREIFSWALDER GEOGRAPHISCHE ARBEITEN
Local Perceptions and Preferences
for Landscape and Land Use
in the Fischland-Darß-Zingst Region,
German Baltic Sea
GEOGRAPHIE UND GEOLOGIE
GREIFSWALDER GEOGRAPHISCHE ARBEITEN
Institut für Geographie und Geologie der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald
Local Perceptions and Preferences for Landscape and
Land Use in the Fischland-Darß-Zingst Region,
German Baltic Sea
Stoll-Kleemann, Susanne (ed.) (2015): Local Perceptions and Preferences for Landscape and Land Use
in the Fischland-Darß-Zingst Region, German Baltic Sea, Greifswalder Geographische Arbeiten Bd. 51,
Institut für Geographie und Geologie der Ernst-Moritz-Arndt Universität Greifswald.
This volume is available as download on the publication server for scientific literature about earth and
The research presented has been supported by the German Federal Ministry for Education and
Research (BMBF) under the “Sustainable Land Management Programme” - http://nachhaltiges-
landmanagement.de/en/. We are in debt first to Elke Wegener for her commitment and endeavour
during the first phase of the project, which enabled the collection of the empirical data, and to all our
interview partners. Thanks are extended to Marco Stadler and Birthe Frenzel for the design of specific
figures and preparation of the text for publication. We also thank Antje Sokolowski for her support in
the data-collection process. Furthermore, we are grateful to all interviewees in the Fischland-Darß-
Zingst region who generously contributed their time, valuable knowledge, and insights to the study.
The paper by A.C. de la Vega-Leinert and S. Stoll-Kleemann builds on a conference paper: de la Vega-
Leinert, Wegener and Stoll-Kleemann (2012) given at the Berlin Conference on Human Dimensions of
Global Environmental Change, October 2012.
Authors: Susanne Stoll-Kleemann (ed.)
Editing: Nadine V.M. Fritz-Vietta
Print: KIEBU-Druck Greifswald
The authors are responsible for the content.
Identifying gaps between science, policy and societal
perspectives on coastal land use:
The case of managed realignment in Darß – Zingst region,
Mecklenburg Western Pomerania,
Eastern German Baltic coast
A. Cristina de la Vega-Leinert, Susanne Stoll-Kleemann
Through state-of-the art ecosystem modelling supported by ecological experimental data, the
COMTESS Project (funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research) investigates
potential trade offs in ecosystem service provision under different climate impact and land-use
scenarios in two German coastal areas till 2100. Land-use scenarios were developed within the project
for two study regions on the Baltic and North Sea coasts to contrast a control Business-as-usual
scenario. In this paper we focus on the Baltic case study region. The premise of COMTESS alternative
coastal land use scenario is the managed realignment of current dikes inland for: 1) Carbon Storage
(and wetland re-naturation) or 2) Multiple Land Use (incl. biomass harvesting for energetic purposes).
Managed Realignment is assumed to lower long-term costs of hard coastal defence, restore critical
carbon sinks and liberate much needed areas to compensate ecological destruction elsewhere. Though
politically highly controversial and facing much public antagonism, Managed Realignment is
effectively embedded in the current coastal management policy of the state of Mecklenburg West
Pomerania. Implementation, nevertheless, faces many obstacles.
The goal of this paper is to explore consistencies and discrepancies in the views of policy,
management practitioners and sectoral representatives with respect to the COMTESS coastal land-use
strategies for the Darß-Zingst region on the eastern German Baltic coast. Based on participatory,
empirical qualitative social science research methods we analyse stakeholder opinions, perspectives
and argumentations regarding coastal land use and Managed Realignment. This contributes to
evaluate and complement the rationale of the ecological and economic modelling embedded in the
project through the formulation of a fourth, “expert-based”, land-use scenario.
A growing consensus on the necessity in future for localised land abandonment and some form of
coastal land-use adaptation is emerging in science, policy, regional planning and coastal land
management arenas. Nevertheless, locally affected land users and inhabitants continue to show a very
vocal resistance to Managed Realignment and a strong attachment to the traditional “Hold the Line”
coastal defence paradigm. Interviewed experts representing potentially affected parties confirm that:
1) Managed Realignment and coastal re-naturation is polemic and can only be envisaged in specific
circumstances, while 2) coastal defence should prioritize not only the protection of populations but
also of their productive resources and activities. Our work points at key discrepancies between
science, policy and societal views on Managed Realignment and in existing rationalisations, positions
and legitimisation of coastal defence and land use. These are indirectly related to different perceptions
and prioritisations of what is needed vs. what is desirable vs. what is acceptable. More complex
modelling frameworks, which incorporate critical factors and processes that affect societal vs.
individual adaptation in coastal land are needed to address societal reactions towards controversial
strategies, such as Managed Realignment, and develop acceptable consensual approaches towards
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents 43
List of Figures 44
List of Tables 44
1 Introduction 45
1.1 Managed realignment (MR): a contested though desirable option in coastal protection? 45
1.2 German coast and approaches to coastal zone management 47
1.3 Goals and approach within COMTESS 49
2 Methodology 51
2.1 COMTESS Baltic coast case study area: the Darß – Zingst region 53
3 Results 55
3.1 Expert-based scenario 58
4 Discussion 60
5 Conclusions 62
6 References 64
LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Two generic coastal adaptation options considered in COMTESS for the Baltic Sea............... 50
Figure 2: Participative evaluation of the COMTESS Baltic Sea scenarios ................................................... 51
Figure 3: Location map of the Darß – Zingst case study region .................................................................. 53
Figure 4: Restructuration of COMTESS land-use scenarios ......................................................................... 56
Figure 5: Proposal for the implementation of the expert-based scenario ................................................... 59
LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Managed Realignment on the German Baltic Sea coast ................................................................. 48
Table 2: Boundary conditions for COMTESS land-use scenarios in the Baltic Sea sites .......................... 49
Table 3: Interviewed experts ............................................................................................................................. 52
Table 4: COMTESS case study sites in the Darß – Zingst Region ................................................................ 54
Table 5: Positive elements associated with the COMTESS land-use scenarios and synergies ................ 55
Table 6: Different priorities mentioned by different actors involved in COMTESS ................................. 56
Table 7: Premises underlying the COMTESS land-use scenarios ................................................................ 60
Since the 1970s the dominant hard coastal defence paradigm, based on an engineered armouring of
the coast, has been challenged from a number of perspectives. This resulted in the emergence of softer
management approaches, including managed realignment (Hanson et al. 2002). Managed Realignment
presupposes the removal or relocation of coastal defences inland to re-establish natural intertidal
buffers and has the potential to restore critical natural buffers and lower long-term costs of hard
coastal defence (Brook 1992; Burd 1995). Though politically highly controversial and facing much
public antagonism, Managed Realignment is since the 1990s being experimented with in several
European countries (Goeldner-Gianella 2007; Rupp-Amstrong and Nicholls 2007). Managed
Realignment is increasingly being considered at scientific, policy and management levels as a valid
coastal adaptation option, which indicates a major departure from traditional approaches (Nicholls
and Klein 2005).
The goal of this paper is to explore consistencies and discrepancies in the views of policy,
management practitioners and sectoral representatives with respect to coastal land-use strategies
based on the premise of Managed Realignment applied to a case study region in the State of
Mecklenburg – Western Pomerania. We thereby wish to contribute to a more contrasting and
differentiated panorama of views on future coastal adaptation to climate change on the German Baltic
coast. After introducing the emergence of the Managed Realignment approach and trends in German
coastal zone management, we present our work within the COMTESS Project: “Sustainable Coastal
Land Management Trade-Offs in Ecosystem Services” funded by the Federal Ministry for Education
1.1 Managed realignment (MR): a contested though desirable option in coastal
10% of world population live in low elevated coastal zones (areas under 10 m mean sea level), which
cumulatively cover 2% of global land area (Wong et al. 2014). Historically populations have
demonstrated a great ability to adapt to the coasts’ dynamic nature (Tol et al. 2008). Soft coastal
systems are, however, seen as particularly sensitive to climate change and sea-level rise (SLR), which
significantly exacerbate current trends in coastal surges and flooding, salinisation and erosion (Wong
et al. 2014). Three generic coastal adaptation strategies have been identified (IPCC CZMS 1990),
namely: protection (i.e. coastal defence), accommodation (i.e. adjustments in occupation and use) and
retreat (i.e. inland relocation of settlements and activities). Though accommodation and retreat
constitute traditional coastal adaptation strategies, hard defence has with time progressively
straightened and homogenised the coastline, thereby making it easier to protect (French 1997). Where
land was scarce and technology appropriate, land claim has historically secured fertile land for the
production of food and tradable goods, water reservoirs and cheap new land for infrastructural,
1 COMTESS: “Sustainable Coastal Land Management Trade-Offs in Ecosystem Services” (http://www.comtess.uni-
oldenburg.de/en/). Project Grant Number: 01LL0911A-G funded by the Federal Ministry for Education and Research (Bundes
Ministerium für Bildung und Forschung) under Module A of the Sustainable Land Management Framework. http://modul-
a.nachhaltiges-landmanagement.de/en/modul-a/ - Accessed 09.02.2015
residential, touristic and commercial activities (Bertrand and Goeldner 1999a and b). Land claim and
coastal defence encapsulate a historically hard-won battle against the sea. Extreme coastal surges (e.g.
1953 in the North Sea, 1962 in northwest Germany, 1976 in Denmark) have indeed been traumatic for
coastal populations, who often perceive the sea as a destructive force, which can only be harnessed via
higher, stronger engineering structures. This spurred a recrudescence of vast land claim projects in
northern Europe between the 1950s and the 1990s, even if these were not necessarily implemented
(Verger and Goeldner 1995, Goeldner-Gianella 1999). At the same time, awareness of pervasive
negative ecological impacts of hard coastal defence (i.e. disappearance of intertidal habitats and
buffers through coastal squeeze, displacement of coastal erosion) has grown since the 1970s and led to
the progressive emergence of softer approaches (Hanson et al. 2002; Doody 2012).
Managed Realignment is an anticipatory retreat strategy, which seeks to increase coastal resilience by
restoring healthy (semi)natural coastal dynamics, buffers and habitats through the re-establishment of
tidal flooding via (partial) breaching or removal of existing defences, gates or pumping (Burd 1995;
French 2006). It involves two major changes in coastal zone management perspective, since it implies:
1. yielding some control to natural coastal processes (i.e. working with rather than against
2. yielding some land to the sea.
Both requirements run against a deeply engraved positivist, engineer-dominated conceptualisation of
the relationship between humans and the coast. For some authors, more progressive coastal legislation
and management practice are often hindered by a reactionary framing of coastal defence as a national
crusade against the sea (Pethick 2002). Originally restricted to localised experiments in a dominant
“Hold the Line” discourse, Managed Realignment projects nevertheless multiply in northern Europe
since the 1990s, especially in the UK, France, the Netherlands and Germany (French 2006; Goeldner-
Gianella 2007, Rupp-Amstrong and Nicholls 2007). Managed Realignment is increasingly being
envisaged for sparely populated, economically marginal areas that are highly exposed and where
hard defence would imply a costly long-term commitment. It constitutes a paradigmatic change in
coastal management, and emerges as a viable and desirable strategy at ecological (e.g. restoration of
key coastal buffers and habitats), economic (e.g. optimisation of coastal defence budget) and societal
level (e.g. prioritisation on vulnerable areas) (Nicholls and Klein 2005; Turner et al. 2007). Managed
Realignment is arguably being mainstreamed in coastal adaptation research, conservation, land-use
planning and coastal policy (Holman et al. 2002; NABU 2012; HM Government 2011). In practice,
however, implementation runs against serious legal, institutional, financing obstacles, while
significant uncertainties remain, which are related to the feasibility, viability and ecological success of
MR over the long term (Pethick 2002; Wolters et al. 2005; Ledoux et al. 2005; Tinch and Ledoux 2006;
O’Riordan et al. 2008; Mossmann et al. 2012, Esteves 2013).
Managed Realignment provokes a wide spectrum of opinions among lay and affected populations. A
range of explanatory elements has been proposed in the literature, which point at obstacles to be
overcome and offer possible levee points on which to anchor this new strategy and, more broadly,
adaptive, participatory coastal zone management approaches. Some factors identified include societal
levels of understanding of coastal environment, landscape aesthetics preferences and perception of
coastal risk (e.g. Goeldner-Gianella 2007, 2008). Others relate to public understanding of the
underlying rationale, design, implementation and perceived outcomes of Managed Realignment (e.g.
Myatt-Bell et al. 2002). Moreover, the availability of appropriate information and compensation
mechanisms, quality of consultation and decision process, credibility of the implementing institutions
critically influence public perception and acceptance of Managed Realignment (Myatt et al. 2003;
Ledoux et al. 2005; Milligan and O’Riordan 2007). This disparity of views between science, policy and
society points at a significant gap between preferred options and clearly raises issues related to
governance and decision making (O’Riordan et al. 2014). Indeed, since in place the legitimacy of
Managed Realignment is strongly contested, the question is whether disparate or even opposite
positions can be reconciled.
1.2 German coast and approaches to coastal zone management
Sterr (2008) provide an exhaustive overview of the key characteristics of the German coast. Divided
into the North and Baltic Sea, the German coast is 3,700 km long. It is primarily composed of
unconsolidated quaternary sediments and is eroding over 61% of its length. It is moreover
predominantly low lying, with 13,500 km2 of coastal plain below 5 m above mean sea level, 3,400 km2
of its coastal plain being artificially drained, of which 30% is flood prone. Around 1,900 km of the
German coast has some form of coastal protection (whether engineered or natural buffers). 1,900 km2
of the German Baltic coast lie in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania, with 377 km of open outer coast
and 1,568 km of inner coast, the latter been generally sheltered through barrier and island systems
(Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2010).
In 2011 the State of Mecklenburg Western Pomerania estimated that 65% of its outer coast was actively
eroding whereas 22% was accreting and 13% remained stable. Moreover, 1,000 km2 of the coastal
plain, home for 180,000 people, was flood prone and was protected by 135 km of hard defence along
the outer coast (Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz Mecklenburg-
Though the federal government pushes towards greater integration and finances coastal defence for
the most part (to a ratio of 70% federal funds: 30%: state funds), coastal zone management remains
decentralized, being embedded in Mecklenburg Western Pomerania under the Water Act
(Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2009).
Differences in approaches across the five German coastal states relate to distinct natural contexts,
history of settlement and density of occupation of the North and Baltic Sea coasts, but also to changes
in coastal policies and institutional frameworks associated with the German partition, subsequent
reunification and incorporation into the European Union (Nordstrom et al. 2007). On the North Sea,
despite a number of experiments since the 1980s, coastal management remains primarily based on a
“Hold the Line” strategy, with coastal defence infrastructure having high protection standards: here
Managed Realignment would not only be highly unpopular but very costly (Sterr 2008; Rupp-
Amstrong and Nicholls 2007). In contrast on the Baltic Sea, Managed Realignment is seen appropriate,
since its coastal plain is sparsely inhabited, tidal range is negligible, dikes are often reaching their end-
life, flood-prone areas comparatively small and coastal surges infrequent (Goeldner 1999; Goeldner-
Gianella 2007; Rupp-Amstrong and Nicholls 2007; Nordstrom et al. 2007).
In the state of Mecklenburg Western Pomerania coastal defence policy centres on the protection of
settlements and population (Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 2009: 31). To reduce public coastal defence costs the responsibility for
2 Different sources mention different lengths of the coast depending on the level of detail being measured.
maintenance of so-called second order dikes (which protect agricultural polders) is progressively
being transferred to local drainage boards (Nordstorm et al. 2007) and thus indirectly to communities
and land users. Managed Realignment is thus in principle feasible, though not yet explicitly endorsed
as coastal adaptation strategy, as it is for example in the UK (HM Government 2011). Implementation,
however, faces many obstacles, also due to overt opposition from affected land users. This is
illustrated by the civil association “Hände weg vom Deich” (“take your hands off our dike”)3, which
since 2009 strongly opposes a Managed Realignment measure to compensate for the industrial
development associated with the reconversion of the Lubminer nuclear plant.
Nevertheless, a number of micro-scale ecological re-naturation and Managed Realignment
programmes are on-going. The OMReg database4 updates the detailed inventory of Managed
Realignment projects in German from Rupp-Amstrong and Nicholls (2007) – (See Table 1 for the Baltic
Table 1: Managed Realignment on the German Baltic Sea coast
Although there have been so far more projects on the North Sea (18) than on the Baltic Sea (12), the
surface affected is substantially larger on the Baltic Sea (with 3,743 ha from a total of reported 5,983
ha5). On the North Sea, projects have generally been initiated earlier, range in size between 1 and 853
ha and were mostly undertaken to compensate for environmental impacts elsewhere. On the Baltic
Sea, projects range in size between 40 and 1,750 ha and the prime goal is habitat creation. Overall,
habitat creation / enhancement goals primarily focus on saltmarsh, but also intertidal mudflats (North
Sea) and transitional grasslands / salt meadows (Baltic Sea). Managed Realignment in Germany is
generally performed through dike removal, in place accompanied by the construction / reinforcement
of inland dikes. The OMReg Database is by no means comprehensive and further projects are in
discussion, in progress or have failed. In particular, the largest project in Mecklenburg Western
Pomerania, the re-naturation of the Sundische Meadow on the East Zingst Peninsula (See below), has
3 “Hände Weg vom Deich” - http://www.kein-deichrueckbau-usedom.de/ - accessed 23.09.2014
4 http://www.omreg.net/– accessed on 22.09.2014
5 This difference primarily relates to one site: Anklamer Stadtbruch, where, following dike overtopping in 1995, drainage was
discontinued and coastal protection was not reconstructed (Rupp-Amstrong and Nicholls 2007).
not yet been included in the database6.
1.3 Goals and approach within COMTESS
Sterr (2008) in his national vulnerability assessment summarises expected impacts of sea-level rise on
the German coasts, which include: increasing beach and dune erosion, changes in storminess and
coastal surge patterns and salinisation of coastal freshwater lenses. Associated impacts (in terms of
people / economic assets at risk) are expected to be low in comparison with highly vulnerable coastal
areas of the world. The author thus argues that with adequate and timely coastal adaptation, climate
change and sea-level rise impacts on the German coast should be restricted, coastal protection should
be technologically and economically feasible and manageable, despite significant increases in costs.
Nevertheless, through coastal squeeze hard defence are expected to cause significant loss of valuable
intertidal wetlands (Sterr 2008).
This is the starting point of the COMTESS project, which through state-of-the art ecosystem service
modelling supported by ecological experimental data, investigates potential synergies and trade-offs
in ecosystem service provision in two case study regions under different coastal land-use scenarios on
the German coast till 2100. The overall goal is to explore alternative sustainable land-use strategies to
best adapt to climate change. To this end, specific aspects of climate change have been used as
boundary conditions (Table 2). Moreover, currently protected areas under 2 m a.s.l. are considered to
be potentially at risk of inland flooding / coastal surge through climate change impacts.
Table 2: Boundary conditions for COMTESS land-use scenarios in the Baltic Sea sites
Sea level rise
+ 25 cm / 100 years
+80 cm / 100 years
+ 1.5 m / 100 years
+ 20% in winter
- 20% in summer
+ 20% in winter
- 40% in summer
We focus here on the two coastal land-use scenarios developed for the Baltic coast to contrast a
Business-as-usual scenario. Effectively, out of the three generic coastal adaptation options envisaged
in the IPCC Common Methodology (IPCC CZMS 1990), two are considered within COMTESS: namely
“Hold the Line” and “Managed Retreat” (here termed “Managed Realignment”) (See Figure 1).
6 Information on the Sundische Meadow Project is available under http://www.regierung-
mv.de/cms2/Regierungsportal_prod/Regierungsportal/de/lm/?&pid=27384 – accessed on 22.09.2014.
Figure 1: Two generic coastal adaptation options considered in COMTESS for the Baltic Sea
1. The Business-as-usual– Hold the Line scenario is a control scenario that presupposes the
continuation of the present coastal defence strategy: i.e. the upgrading and maintenance of
coastal dikes and the artificial drainage of inland freshwater. This choice clearly departs from
traditional coastal vulnerability assessments, for which the control scenario is “Do nothing”
(no upgrade / maintenance of dikes) (Nicholls et al. 1999).
2. COMTESS envisages Managed Realignment broadly based on the provision of the coastal
zone policy of the State of Mecklenburg Western Pomerania that prioritises the protection of
the coastal population over the protection of agricultural area. Accordingly, dikes in the
COMTESS scenarios are relocated inland to secure settlements, while dikes which protect
current low-lying agricultural land are removed. Managed Realignment is assumed to
contribute to recreate an amphibious landscape that would be more resilient to future impacts
of sea-level rise. It serves two mutually exclusive strategies:
a. CO2 storage for climate mitigation. Here, land use is abandoned to allow the expansion of
reed vegetation and the restoration of wetlands in areas under 2 m a.s.l. As wetland
surface elevation increases, coasts may keep up with sea-level rise.
b. Multiple land use. Here, land use is adapted to cope with potential climate change impacts.
Envisaged land uses include salt meadows, which have high biodiversity value, and the
harvesting of reed biomass for energetic purposes. Effectively, when focusing on land use
only this scenario may also be seen as a version of the IPCC Common Methodology
“Accommodate” adaptation option.
Our specific contribution within the COMTESS project is to investigate the congruence and
plausibility of COMTESS land-use scenarios for stakeholders in the Baltic Sea case study region. The
underlying hypothesis is that different stakeholders have distinct perceptions, priorities, and
preferences for coastal / land-use management, which may coincide with the COMTESS science-
based land-use scenarios, but not necessarily. Our aims are thus:
1. to identify and collect stakeholder opinions, perspectives and argumentation regarding
coastal land use and Managed Realignment, and
2. to complement the ecological and economic modelling embedded in the project through
the formulation of a fourth, “expert-based”, land-use scenario.
To this end we followed a participatory approach based on empirical qualitative social science
research methods (Flick 2012; Corbin and Strauss 2008). Figure 2 depicts the different steps carried
Figure 2: Participative evaluation of the COMTESS Baltic Sea scenarios
We first performed a stakeholder analysis (Reed et al. 2009) to identify key actors in the study region,
their (conflicting) interests and probable positions regarding land-use strategies and Managed
Realignment. This was guided by one main partner (from the National Park Vorpommersche
Boddenlandschaft) complemented by exhaustive internet searches and further recommendations from
interview partners. We originally approached around 35 potential participants conducted 17
interviews with 21 experts from regional administrations, local authorities, drainage boards, farmers’
representatives, non-governmental, private organizations and a local voluntary fire brigade (Table 3).
Experts were chosen to depict different perspectives on coastal defence and land planning policy,
natural resource management, flood hazard rescue, conservation, agriculture, and tourism issues.
Although the approached representatives of the tourism, energy and transport sectors declined to
participate, these topics were discussed in detail with stakeholders involved. Moreover if the project
also explored broader public perceptions through world cafés and focus group approaches (Figure 2),
in this paper we present the results of detailed interviews performed with our “expert stakeholders”.
Table 3: Interviewed experts
Interviewed experts were introduced to the COMTESS rationale, scenarios and the areas to be
sampled and modelled in detail. A template questionnaire was adapted for each interview partner.
This contained open questions on the responsibilities experts had within their business /
organisations and general views on climate change, sustainability, land use and coastal adaptation.
They were further asked to evaluate the three COMTESS land-use scenarios and to formulate
alternatives coastal land-use paths. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and coded following
accepted methods in qualitative content analysis using the Atlas.ti software. Coding occurred
iteratively based on two main axes of enquiry: first, transcripts were analysed to isolate perceptions on
the desirability and feasibility of “Hold the Line” vs. Managed Realignment and implications for these
two contrasting strategies. Subsequently, the obtained statements were revisited in detail to draw lines
of argumentation used to support or reject these strategies. Interview statements are referred to within
brackets, as follows: Transcript reference number; paragraph numbers in the Altas.ti hermeneutic unit
(e.g.: P1: 10-25). The complete hermeneutic unit is available from the authors.
2.1 COMTESS Baltic coast case study area: the Darß – Zingst region
The Darß - Zingst Peninsula and Bodden on the eastern German Baltic coast is a barrier island and
lagoon system composed of unconsolidated Quaternary sediments still connected to the inland coast
through the thin Fischland coastal cordon to the west (StAUN, 2009 – Figure 3). Erosion of the Darß
and Zingst dunes and beaches on the open coast to the north are prevented through hard and soft
defences, while the barrier island complex is a natural protection for the backing inland coasts of the
Bodden. At present only a narrow in- and outlet located to the east of the Zingst peninsula connects
the Baltic Sea with the Bodden lagoon to the south.
Figure 3: Location map of the Darß – Zingst case study region
In the case study region, different legal frameworks conflict in principle with each other. Indeed, on
the one hand, the East Zingst Peninsula is a core zone of the National Park “Nordvorpommersche
Boddenlandschaft” so that neither construction nor land use should be permitted. At the same time,
the Darß – Zingst Peninsula is the cornerstone of the local coastal protection concept for the inland
Bodden coast. To optimise coastal defence costs, rather than strengthen the dikes around each
settlement of the Bodden coast, it was decided in recent years to reinforce the East Zingst Peninsula.
Starting 2004 a new dike was constructed, which ironically runs in the middle of the National Park
core zone (StAUN 2009). A vast re-naturation programme should compensate for the ecological
damages of dike construction after its completion in 2014. This implies the abandonment and / or
active breaching of existing dikes, which currently surround the East Zingst Peninsula with the
exception of the western dikes that protect the settlement of Zingst and the highly valued freshwater
forest of Osterwald.
Two specific areas on the Bodden coast were chosen for the modelling assessment within the
COMTESS project (Figure 3): 1) the Michaelsdorf Peninsula by Fuhlendorf and the depression area
around Neu Bartelshagen described in Table 4 below. Although East Zingst was not included in the
modelling exercise, we consider it here, since it is the largest current Managed Realignment site in the
Table 4: COMTESS case study sites in the Darß – Zingst Region
2nd order dikes
1st Order Dike over
most of the area,
though to the west,
2nd order dikes
New 1st Order Dike is the cornerstone of
the current coastal protection strategy
Existing dikes to the north and south will
be breached / removed to allow
restoration of natural processes and the
renaturation of the Sundische Meadow
under Soil and
1st Order Dike
though attempts to
Soil and Water
already caters for
2nd Order dikes
State of Mecklenburg- Western Pomerania
National Park Vorpommersche Bodden
To the north and west forest under
conservation (Osterwald), to the south
(Sundische Meadow), pasture
Expected impacts through re-naturation:
on the Sundische Meadow: salt
meadows to be restored through pasture
to the north, progressive degradation of
the woodland through salinisation from
to the west, the Osterwald remains
protected and is not affected by the re-
The three original COMTESS scenarios have been organized along two axes (Figure 4). The first
pictures the coastal defence option (“Hold the Line” vs. Managed Realignment), while the second
represents the land use vs. conservation focus. Current / plausible implications of the COMTESS
scenarios for the cases study sites as identified from project documentation and statements from our
interviewed experts have been re-organised along this matrix, (Table 5). Synergies as well as
incompatibilities emerge in different combinations of coastal protection and land-use strategies as
envisaged by COMTESS.
For example, migratory cranes can feed on harvest remains from maize cultivation under Business as
usual (P12: 61-74). Sheep grazing on dikes combine pasture with low cost maintenance of protective
structures, while dike tops used as cycle paths are an important infrastructure that raises touristic
attractiveness (P10: 125-127). Similarly, under Managed realignment carbon storage in coastal moors
may also fulfil specific conservation goals (P2: 193-204). A range of alternative land uses that may be
compatible with Managed Realignment are already being experimented with in the region. For
example, if current cattle breeds can pasture on wet salt meadows, water buffaloes may be better
adapted to semi-permanently flooded pasture conditions (P6: 221-229). Also, potential applications of
reed, a traditional resource for roofs (P11: 140), and other moor vegetation are been explored and
tested upon in the Project VIP7 (P1: 288-298). However, specific strategies and goals are clearly
mutually exclusive. For instance, moor re-naturation is incompatible with reed harvesting, while
process-based conservation (e.g. wetland growth in pace with sea-level rise) that could be fostered
with Managed Realignment, cannot be reconciled with the conservation of specific freshwater /
terrestrial biotopes. The latter influenced the decision to maintain and upgrade coastal defence
structures to protect the Osterwald on the East Zingst Peninsula from salinisation / flooding (StAUN
Table 5: Positive elements associated with the COMTESS land-use scenarios and synergies
Hold the line
• Climate mitigation
• Restoration of natural processes /
buffers (process conservation)
• Landscape naturalness (nature
• Freshwater biotope conservation
• Optimisation of adaptation costs
• Improvement of inland drainage
• Release of compensation areas
• Feeding grounds for migrating birds
• Preserving cultural landscapes and
• Alternative sustainable income
• Renewable energy through reed
• Maintaining agricultural productivity,
local economy and tourist
• Fostering food security
• Renewable energy through arable
7 Vorpommersche Initiative für Paludikultur - http://www.paludiculture.com/index.php?id=35 (29.09.12)
Figure 4: Restructuration of COMTESS land-use scenarios
Table 6 shows an overview of the arguments used by different parties involved in the assessment of
the various combinations of coastal defence and land-use strategy encompassed within the COMTESS
scenarios. Since interviews used open questions, not all aspects considered below were mentioned by
any one interviewee, while different actors from the same “sector” may have placed different
emphases. Important overlaps as well as critical differences in focus, interests and priorities among
different experts involved became thereby clear. This overview contributed substantially to the
articulation of the fourth, “expert-based”, COMTESS scenario to be discussed below.
Table 6: Different priorities mentioned by different actors involved in COMTESS
(P10, P13, P17)
(P1, P2, P3, P4,
(P5, P6, P8,
MR (Co2 Storage)
Restoration natural processes
Landscape naturalness (nature tourism)
Coastal protection (population)
Optimisation long term adaptation costs
Improvement of inland drainage
(P10, P13, P17)
(P1, P2, P3, P4,
(P5, P6, P8,
Release of compensation areas
Release of economically marginal lands
MR (Multiple Land Use)
Preserving cultural landscapes / diversity
Alternative sustainable income sources
Renewable energy through reed
Hold the Line
Coastal protection (population / agriculture)
Crane feeding grounds (species
Local economy, agriculture, tourism
Fostering food security
Renewable energy through arable crops
Interestingly, experts from different institutions may support Managed Realignment, while
emphasizing different priorities. Thus, from a local and regional planning perspective Managed
Realignment may help to secure compensation areas for development projects (P10: 15; P3: 55-57; 231-
271), from a coastal zone management view, it may also contribute to optimize coastal adaptation
budget (P4: 8-13; P9: 127-133). From an environmental management perspective, it may provide
additional water retention surfaces to mitigate flood risk, help regulate nutrients (P9: 73-75), but also
to keep pace with SLR (P4: 3) and contribute to regional climate protection goals (P2: 31; P4: 3). From a
conservation point of view it can further foster the ecological restoration of important natural buffers,
create a high value cultural landscape mosaic and alternative sustainable livelihoods (P15: 6-69; P3: 94-
97). The diversity in these answers highlights the potential synergetic effects of Managed Realignment
in different dimensions of policy and management.
In contrast, different experts may stress a similar priority, but envisage very different, possibly
incompatible strategies to achieve it. For example, optimizing coastal protection costs for a policy
expert may imply Managed Realignment, whereas for an expert from the agricultural sector, it might
primarily involve technological improvements to reduce energy costs needed for drainage (P7: 45-59;
P6: 203-205; P8: 215-237; P8: 239-261).
Moreover, the perception of expected, desired or feared outcomes appears to significantly influence
how specific coastal zone management and land-use strategies are judged. For example, the expected
outcomes of Managed Realignment mentioned above can partly explain the generally positive attitude
of the experts from governmental administration interviewed (P4: 32; P9: 67; P13: 453). However, for
experts, whose constituencies, environment or activities may be directly affected, Managed
Realignment and re-naturation programmes are primarily associated with potential land loss, and
thus as a threat to local agriculture (P6: 181-183; 219-221), livelihoods, employment and local
development (P11: 33-38) and more broadly cultural landscape and regional identity (P9: 191-205).
Also, the restoration of near natural landscape processes and dynamics is welcomed by conservation
experts (P2: 71-79). Nevertheless local authorities fear that specific cultural landscape may turn wild
(P11: 54; P9: 191-205; P2: 277-279) and landscape aesthetics and desirable biodiversity significantly
decline (P11: 54; 140-144; P6: 203-205). This would in turn strongly affect tourist attractiveness and the
local economy (P2: 281-283). Interestingly, negative perception of landscape uniformity (e.g. spreading
reed beds in the Carbon Storage scenario) can also work against the Business as usual scenario, when
intensive agriculture and its effects (e.g. monoculture plantation, water and soil contamination) are
rejected (P7: 119-131; P2: 295-311).
Further, experts perceive differently the necessity to prepare for possible future climate change
impacts and its degree of urgency. Overt positions on climate change range from scepticism towards
the urgency raised by climate change to full endorsement (P15: 64; P17: 37; 123). Interviewed experts
from governmental administration and conservation organization tend to underscore mainstream
climate change discourse, while local private sector / authority experts are more likely to question the
climate change discourse and argue that other matters have higher priority.
Perceptions on the feasibility, desirability or legitimacy of alternative land-use strategies are again
very diverse. For example, if bioenergy from reed is largely dismissed by many interviewed experts
due to the perceived lack of technical feasibility, efficiency or economical viability (P1: 129-141; 288-
298; P7: 119-131; P5: 69-85; P3: 132-135), bioenergy from maize is often judged morally unacceptable,
since it threatens food production and security (P11: 80; P14: 3-328). Furthermore, the argumentation
used by different experts to embed their approval or rejection of Managed Realignment in a wider
debate on individual and societal responsibility is interesting. For example, one expert openly
questions costly long-term coastal adaptation that protects individual assets at the expenses of tax-
payers and the broader needs of society (P2: 313-321; P4: 7). Also, if experts from the farming sector
may argue that agriculture’s role towards realizing food security legitimates federal subsidies for
coastal protection (P5: 61-68), conservation experts on the contrary may fundamentally question the
agricultural subsidy system (whether for food or bioenergy) that is believed to artificially maintain the
economic viability of agricultural activities on marginal land and makes ecological re-naturation
difficult to implement (P10: 161-185; P15: 597-625).
3.1 Expert-based scenario
Table 6 makes the wide spectrum of expert opinions on the COMTESS scenarios visible, as well as
convergence and divergence with the rationale of the project. Though some experts hold very clear
and strong views on the appropriateness, desirability and feasibility of “Hold the Line” or Managed
Realignment strategies, there is room for commonalities of interests. Thus if experts generally agree
that coastal surge and flooding can seriously impact the region and require appropriate anticipatory
adaptation action, they in general disagree on the rationale of the COMTESS scenario. Two main
aspects have generally been criticised by interviewed experts:
The COMTESS scenario envisage one single land-use strategy over the modelled area (e.g.
Carbon Storage), which is uniformly implemented in time and space. The relocation of coastal
defence occurs in the first modelled time step and remains valid for the whole modelled
period (i.e. till 2100).
The COMTESS scenarios do not take into consideration the complex interactions of policy,
economic and societal drivers that influence land-use decisions. However, the latter, for
interviewed partners, are primarily driven by changes in economic viability (e.g. of
agricultural production), which in turn is critically influenced by public / European Union
subsidy programmes, world prices, national markets, lifestyles etc.
Though all alternatives proposed by experts could obviously not be reconciled into one single
additional scenario, the critiques above emerged as a satisfactory common ground on which to
formulate a fourth scenario. A key message from all experts, who did not fully support one or the
other of the COMTESS scenario, was that a differentiation rule needs to be included to allow gradual
Managed Realignment and land-use changes. For many experts, a radical change, though it might be
perceived as needed / desirable, is not realistic. Instead, it is probable that land use will be maintained
as long as it is economically viable (P5: 61-68; P16: 395-419; P6: 117-127) after which it will
progressively be adapted only to be abandoned, when no further economically viable adaptation is
possible (P5: 112-125; 150-183; P9: 219-251; P15: 568-574). To incorporate this land-use decision process,
even if coarsely, it was proposed to include in the COMTESS modelling a threshold based on
agricultural productivity and returns. A more realistic sequence of land-use change and coastal
protection for interviewed experts would be as follows:
1. Continuation of current land use (Business as usual – “Hold the Line”)
2. Once a given kipping point in viability is reached, a first Managed Realignment occurs.
Productive areas are protected by new dikes, while on marginal land fronting these dikes land
use is adapted to temporal flooding and gradual submergence (“Multiple Land use”)
3. Once a further kipping point in viability is reached, dikes are constrained to settlements and
land use is abandoned (“Carbon Storage”)
Figure 5: Proposal for the implementation of the expert-based scenario
Differentiation further not only applies temporally (i.e. with increasing sea-level rise) but also spatially
(i.e. as specific areas progressively become unfit for Business as usual land use) (see Figure 5). This
enables a more complex and realistic representation of land-use changes and adaptation, although it
remains very coarse and does not adequately consider the complex interplay of global to local factors
and processes that lead to land-use decisions.
This sequential Managed Realignment can be envisaged for the German Baltic region, since specific
characteristics are in place:
the low exposure to, and magnitude of, extreme coastal surges (in comparison to the North
the compartmentilisation of the coast, the integrity of which does not rely on one coherent
hard defence system (i.e. a breach of one dike does not fundamentally endanger wide
stretches of coastal plain as in the North Sea region),
the recent upgrade of major structural coastal defence works (e.g. on East Zingst), which
secure the protection of coastal settlements and attenuate coastal surges impacts on the inland
Bodden coast for the next decades.
the legal framework of the State of Mecklenburg – Western Pomerania, which allows public
authorities to disengage from the task of protecting agricultural land and enables the transfer
of responsibility on local drainage boards
the locally high soil quality (e.g. Neu Bartelshagen) and favourable current EU subsidies,
which assures a high economic viability of cereal production (for food or bioenergy) on
coastal arable land protected by dikes. Here, farmers and the responsible drainage boards
experts insist that land users will choose to upgrade at their own costs the coastal dikes, even
if reluctantly, should the State step out of this responsibility, rather than let go of the land (P5:
150-183; P8: 215-237; 421-443).
The COMTESS land-use scenarios are implicitly founded on a rationale of ecological and economic
optimisation of coastal resources. The choice of Managed Realignment as coastal adaptation option
explored in the COMTESS scenarios implicitly relies on a number of premises (See Table 7).
Table 7: Premises underlying the COMTESS land-use scenarios
Climate change will lead to substantially
increases in dike upgrade and maintenance and
Long-term coastal policy and management
aims at optimising these costs
Alternatives that reduces the long-term
economic costs of adaptation are desirable
Managed Realignment has the capacity to:
1. reduce long-term economic costs of
2. promote the re-establishment of natural
habitats and processes, which can:
a. allow coasts to keep pace with sea-level
b. act as valuable carbon storage
c. form adequate sources of bioenergy
Managed Realignment is in principle
beneficial both economically and ecologically
Managed Realignment is in principle a
desirable coastal adaptation option
Different land-use strategies have different
implications for the local provision of ecosystem
Modelling results on synergies and trade offs is
an important decision-making tools in land-use
policy and management
Modelling informed by detailed
experimental work leads to a better
understanding of complex interactions that
substantially influence ecosystem service
provision under specific land-use strategies
and trade offs between these.
Some of these premises and hypotheses may be shared by a number of experts involved in the
COMTESS project, but not necessarily all to them. The rationale of the COMTESS scenarios supports
an overall goal of optimising coastal ecosystem services and adaptation costs in the context of
accepted scientific discourse on potential climate change impacts. Interestingly, it appears that since
the turn of the century a slow process of mainstreaming of the Managed Realignment strategy is
taking place in Northwest Europe. From localised experiments in a dominant “Hold the Line”
discourse, managed realignment is gradually becoming endorsed explicitly or not in regional and
national legal and planning framework, though only envisaged in areas of high exposure, low
population and / or capital assets, where hard defence would be a costly long-term commitment. The
arenas where this mainstreaming is arguably most visible include research on climate change impact
and adaptation and coastal ecological processes (a precursor of COMTESS, RegIs performed the first
UK coastal vulnerability assessment to envisage explicitly Managed Realignment - Holman et al.
2002), applied sciences on renewable energy and climate mitigation (e.g. the VIP project mentioned
above), coastal zone management administrations (e.g. UK Natural Environment White Paper - HM
2011) or conservation administrations and non-government organisations (e.g. white paper on re-
naturation from the leading German conservation non-governmental organisation NABU 2012).
Managed Realignment fundamentally implies a prioritisation in coastal defence and land-use
management. More practically this means:
1. coming to turns with the notion of letting go some of the land won to the sea, which runs
against the grain of centuries of coastal occupation,
2. a new valuation of coastal land-use and ecosystems and services (as seen in increasing
demand for compensation areas),
This strategy effectively leads to a differential approach: the reinforcement of hard coasts in densely
occupied areas simultaneous to the release of land and ecological restoration in sparsely occupied
ones. Managed Realignment is, thus, a substantial departure from historical trends in coastal land
claim and is politically a very sensitive issue. If implemented at large scale it can result in a significant
reconfiguration of coastal land use, which at local level often causes strong rejection and social
mobilisation. This resistance to let go of land claim can be associated with deeply engraved
conceptualizations of the occupation and use of coastal regions, perceptions of landscape aesthetics
and cultural identity, while other factors such as land tenure, definition and perception of coastal risk,
lack of understanding of coastal dynamics also play an important role (Goeldner 1999; Ledoux et al.
2015; Goeldner-Gianella 2007; 2008; Rupp-Amstrong and Nicholls 2007). Resistance and conflicts
related to endangered individual preferences and assets can nevertheless not simply be appeased
through raising awareness of the expected societal gains of Managed Realignment. They raise
fundamental and complex social justice issues and need to be addressed though adequate
participation in decision-making (O’Riordan and Nicholson-Cole 2010).
In the Darß - Zingst study area coastal defence plans have now been fixed for the next decades and are
non-negotiable. At the same time Managed Realignment is clearly embedded in the legislation of
Mecklenburg – Western Pomerania and is actually taking place. A growing consensus on the necessity
in future for localised land abandonment and some form of coastal land-use adaptation is emerging in
science, policy, regional planning and coastal land management arenas. To a certain extent, we are
thus witnessing a process of mainstreaming of Managed Realignment, which results in the
harmonisation of science and policy discourse. However, if Managed Realignment appears to
becoming increasingly desirable in these arenas, implementation remains politically, socially and also
technically complex. Thus, the actual breaching of dikes and re-naturation entails important
uncertainties related to the capacity of semi-natural processes to re-establish resilient dynamics.
Managed Realignment is not simply about letting go, but about carefully engineering the desirable
Nevertheless, locally affected land users and inhabitants continue to show a very vocal resistance to
Managed Realignment and a strong attachment to the traditional “Hold the Line” coastal defence
paradigm. Interviewed experts representing potentially affected parties confirm that: 1) Managed
Realignment and coastal re-naturation is polemic and can only be envisaged in specific circumstances,
while 2) coastal defence should prioritize not only the protection of populations but also of their
productive resources and activities.
Our work points at key discrepancies between science, policy and societal views on Managed
Realignment and in the rationalisations, positions and legitimisation of coastal defence and land use.
These are indirectly related to different perceptions and prioritisations of what is needed vs. what is
desirable vs. what is acceptable. More complex modelling frameworks, which incorporate critical
factors and processes that affect societal vs. individual adaption in coastal land are needed to address
societal reactions towards controversial strategies, such as Managed Realignment, and develop
acceptable consensual approaches towards their implementation.
In this respect, Douglas et al. (2012) invites us to consider adaptation also as a creative social process,
where communities re-explore their cultural attachment, needs and aspirations in relation to their
coasts. In this task, science and policy have a key role to play by fostering societal debate and common
understanding on sustainable coastal land use, possible avenues and their implications and construct
a solid legal framework towards adaptive, socially just and democratic coastal management
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STOLL-KLEEMANN, S.; SOLBRIG, F.; BUER, C.: Landschaftswahrnehmung, regionale Identität und
Einschätzung des Managements im Biosphärenreservat Schorfheide-Chorin. Ergebnisse einer
quantitativen Bevölkerungsbefragung, 2013, 54 S.
SOLBRIG, F.; BUER, C.; STOLL-KLEEMANN, S.: Landschaftswahrnehmung, regionale Identität und
Einschätzung des Managements im Biosphärenreservat Südost-Rügen. Ergebnisse einer
quantitativen Bevölkerungsbefragung, 2013, 61 S.
SCHÜLER, A; BÜLOW, C.; ZORNOW, A.: (Infra-)Struktuelle Differenzen und deren Ursachen in
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STOLL-KLEEMANN, S. (Hrsg.): Wahrnehmung und Akzeptanz des bundesländerübergreifenden
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STOLL-KLEEMANN, S. (Hrsg.): Local Perceptions and Preferences for Landscape and Land Use in
the Fischland-Darß-Zingst Region, German Baltic Sea, 2015. 67 S.