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Elisabeth Klocke

BSU Department of Urban Development and Environment, Ministry of Hamburg.
Working group Elbe Estuary (2012): The Integrated Managementplan for the Elbe Estuary, www.natura2000-unterelbe.de

Towards sustainability – The Integrated Managementplan for the Elbe Estuary

Evening lecture for "Living with Rivers in Germany and in India: Ecology, Religion and Economy at Elbe, Ganges and Yamuna" on 21 Oct 2011 on the barge Caesar.


72 630 Elbe-estuary.jpgThe Elbe Estuary                                                                      Credits: Integrated Management Plan for the Elbe Estuary

The Elbe estuary has been subject to anthropogenic changes for several hundreds of years. Huge parts of the estuary margins have been diked for land claim and flood defence. The channel morphology within the estuary has been modified severely for navigation purposes.

Despite these changes, the Elbe Estuary is still of outstanding ecological significance. With the exception of the Port of Hamburg and some smaller areas near Brunsbüttel, Cuxhaven and Stade, more than 90 % of its waters and floodplains, are special areas of conservation under the EU Habitats Directive. It is thus a part of the European natural heritage.

In order to conserve the valuable habitats and species and to harmonise ecological and economical demands in the area, the three federal states of Hamburg, Lower Saxony and Schleswig-Holstein, the Hamburg Port Authority and the German Federal Administration of Waterways and Navigation set out to draw up an integrated plan for the estuary management.

Legally, the integrated management plan is based on article 6 habitats directive, stipulating that member states are to establish measures necessary for creating favourable conditions for habitats and species. Beyond objectives of nature conservation, economic as well as social, infrastructural and regional were taken into account and integrated into an overall concept. Shared objective was to integrate nature conservation and development objectives both much earlier and stronger within the context, especially in the design of specific development plans or projects.

The integrated management plan is a directive for the acting state. It is meant to provide clarity and predictability for all actors without having legal binding force towards any current use.

The area covered by the Integrated Management Plan extends from the Geesthacht weir to the mouth of the river over a total length of approx. 135 river km, all in all an area of about 46.000 ha. Being the vitally important connection between the NATURA 2000-sites upstream and downstream of the port, the port of Hamburg was also subject to the planning. The plan defines common conservation objectives for 14 habitat types, amongst which the habitat type “estuary” is to be highlighted, and 9 species and several species of wild birds. One of the focus points of the management plan is the Elbe water dropwort, an endemic plant, which is threatened with extinction.

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Area covered by the integrated management plan                    Credits: integrated management plan for the Elbe estuary

The strong anthropogenic change of the tidal dynamics, especially the tidal range, and the oxygen deficiency situations in summer are of particular importance for the management scheme. The presentation will explain the management scheme for the Elbe water dropwort in greater detail. It will be shown that diversity of species can only be ensured by a joint management of all partners.

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Elbe water dropwort, Oenanthe conioides                                              © Klaus Janke