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Helgoland Marine Research

Open Access

The inner German Bight — an ecologically sensitive area as indicated by the bottom fauna

  • E. Rachor1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:BF02414776


The muddy sediments of the sublittoral area of the inner German Bight are inhabited by a specialized macrofauna with few species. Long-term investigations on community and population dynamics have shown that the majority of this fauna are very susceptible to environmental stress (e. g. oxygen deficiency), and that the impoverishment trend recorded in 1977 has continued. The special hydrographic conditions of the inner German Bight, especially a long flushing time and the possibility of thermohaline stratifications, together with its function as a sediment trap are discussed. It is proposed that such areas should be considered as sensitive, and hence be protected from avoidable additional stress, e. g. introduction of wastes. This proposal is discussed with regard to the dangers arising from the view that muddy areas enriched with organic matter are inhabited by organisms preadapted to the decomposition of additional waste matter.