Nature in Denmark’s coastal regions at risk due to rising sea levels: report

Rising sea levels will put plants and animals in coastal areas in 76 of Denmark's 98 municipalities at risk over the next 50 to 100 years, a new report has found.

Grassy bank by the beach in Blokus, Denmark.
Rare birds and plants found in many of Denmark's coastal areas could disappear if sea levels rise as predicted. Photo by Nils Nedel on Unsplash

A research team from Danish consulting group Cowi and the University of Southern Denmark studied how rises in seawater levels would affect nature along the country’s coasts over the next 50 and 100 years, Danish news service Ritzau reported.

“We are losing some coastal zones and these shallow coastal areas – also called salt marshes – in particular, will disappear,” said Torben Ebbensgaard, biologist and project manager at Cowi.

“These are breeding areas for large numbers of some very rare birds, amphibians and plants,” he said.

At least half of these salt marshes would disappear over the next 100 years taking the habitats of very rare birds and plants with them, he added.

And these rare animals would not be able to find somewhere else to live: “They have evolved to live in some very special habitats. A bird that is used to living on mussels and worms on the beach cannot just go to a wheat field,” Ebbensgaard explained.

More frequent storm surges were also expected to pose a threat to beaches, the report found.

Areas around the Limfjord, Mariager Fjord, Odense Fjord and Stege Bay could be affected by seawater rises over the next 100 years, the report found.

The report’s researchers found that, on average, water levels would rise 45 centimetres in 50 years and one metre over the next 100 years.

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Why Denmark’s bees are becoming a rarer sight

Several species of insect are declining in Denmark, with bees notably reduced in number compared to years past.

Why Denmark’s bees are becoming a rarer sight

As many as 56 species of bee – one in five of the insects in the wild – is in danger of disappearing from Denmark’s nature, according to the World Wildlife Fund, WWF.

35 of the bee species are categorised as endangered or critically endangered, while 21 are “vulnerable”. 19 can already no longer be found in Denmark.

“One thing is that wild bees live their lives, reproduce and are prey for animals like birds and thereby form part of the food chain. Another thing is that they pollinate our wild flowers and in part our crops, along with many other insects,” Thor Hjarsen, senior biologist with WWF, told news wire Ritzau.

Denmark has around 300 different species of bee altogether.

Part of the cause of their decline is the removal of many of their natural habitats from urban and agricultural areas. Some fertilizers are meanwhile poisonous to the insects.

Bees and butterflies, both important pollinators, are among the most endangered species in Denmark, an expert said.

“The bees represent a loss of diversity. There are some bees and butterflies we simply don’t see anymore in our nature,” Rasmus Ernjæs, a biodiversity researcher at Aarhus University, told Ritzau.

Hjarsen said the loss of bees represented a potential problem for food security.

“The important role played by bees in the ecosystem and our food production is at the core of this problem,” he said.

The senior biologist called for more wild habitats to be created to help bees make a comeback.

“But if you make a habitat in your garden or local park they will actually come back there too,” he said.