New Paper: Metageographies of coastal management: negotiating spaces of nature and culture at the Wadden Sea

Walsh, C. Metageographies of coastal management: negotiating spaces of nature and culture at the Wadden Sea, Area, doi: 10.1111/area.12404

This paper forms part of a forthcoming Special Section for Area guest edited by Martin Döring and myself. Most of the papers stemmed from the research workshop: “Managing Coastal Change and Climate Vulnerability: Questions of Place, Space and Landscape” (Hamburg Ocotber 2015). The paper is draws on case study research at the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea coast, centred around the Wadden Sea 2100 climate adaption strategy adopted the state government of Schleswig-Holstein in 2015.


Coastal management and nature conservation may be regarded as sets of profoundly spatial practices with decisive influence on the material and societal construction of coastal landscapes and seascapes. In this context, practices of coastal management are active in the spatial ordering of the land and the sea, oftentimes producing sharp lines of demarcation in place of a fluid boundary zone. Similarly, practices of nature conservation can play a significant role in the socio-spatial separation of nature and culture at the coast. This paper places analytical focus on the diverse socio-spatial imaginaries or metageographies and processes of boundary-making underlying practices of coastal protection and nature conservation. Interpretative analysis of a climate adaptation strategy for the Wadden Sea coastal landscape of Schleswig-Holstein, northern Germany and interviews with key participants demonstrate the relevance of attention to multiple socio-spatial constructions of the coast in a policymaking context. It is concluded that policy strategies need to engage more explicitly with multiple cultural geographies of the coast, and the spatial implications of distinct stakeholder perspectives. It is further evident that both coastal protection and nature conservation constitute regionally specific and culturally situated practices, which cannot be addressed solely from technical perspectives, specific to individual disciplines and professional ways of working. Providing space for the emergence of new and alternative socio-spatial imaginaries of the coast may facilitate the future management of coastal change.

Key words: coastal landscape, metageographies, Wadden Sea, nature–culture, boundary-making, coastal management

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