by Dr. Quentin Groom
Amrum is a small island of the north-western coast of Germany. It covers an area of about 20 square kilometres and has a resident population of about 2,500. The largest town is Wittdün closely followed by Norddorf, Nebel and Steenodde. It is a popular holiday resort for families from northern German cities such as Hamburg, Berlin and Hanover. During the summer the tourists swell the population to about 11,000.
Amrum is roughly crescent shaped, with its convex side facing west to the North Sea and its concave side facing east across the Wadden Sea. The Wadden Sea is a shallow silty sea. Indeed, it is so shallow one can take guided walks between some islands while the tide is out. The Wadden Sea is part of a nature protection area that spans the coasts of Germany, Holland and Denmark. These three countries have joined in a trilateral agreement to protect the Wadden Sea and have nominated the area for UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Amrum and its neighbouring islands Sylt and Föhr have a glacial moraine from the Pleistocene at their core. Not much can be seen of this core except were erosion is occurring on the eastern shore of the island. The geography of Amrum runs in north-south strips. Along the western shore are beaches of fine sand, then as you move inland there are low fore-dunes, then the main dunes which grow to over 30m high. Behind the main dunes are leached hind dunes and sometimes heathland. Then comes a strip of conifer plantations, which was been planted, not only for timber, but also to stabilise the hind dunes and provide shelter to the agricultural land. To the east of the plantations are some heaths, but mainly grazing pasture, hay meadows and agricultural land. These farmed fields extend right up to the high tide mark on the eastern side of the island. The eastern shore is a narrow strip, mainly of saltmarshes, but also some small dunes. Scattered within this striped pattern there are other habitats such as damp meadows, boggy dune slacks, reclaimed saltmarshes, fresh water ponds, drainage ditches, reed beds and deciduous woodland.
Buildings on the island are rather scattered. The towns stick to the higher land to the east of the island, but scattered houses are found behind the dunes, amongst the conifer plantations.
The following checklist is an amagamation of a surveys I have conducted and of checklists in the literature (Christiansen 1967, Türk 1994). I conducted my surveys during July 2005, July 2006 and August 2007. I attempted to visit as much of the island that is accessible and searched out particularly unusual habitats.
I have crudely judged the abundance of each species based on how often I encountered it, and how common it was in the sites were it grew. Thus a plant abundant at only one site would be considered uncommon, as would a species seen at a handful of sites in small numbers. Occasionally, I have not attempted to judge the abundance of the species. Either the species was so hard to find, even when it is present, that it might be more common than it appears, or the species requires microscopic examination to determine and insufficient plants were determined. For some species I state whether the species is native, introduced, planted or casual. Clearly, these are often difficult to assess and rather subjective. It is generally simple to tell if a conifer has been planted in a plantation, but outside plantations it is difficult to know whether individual trees have grown from seeds.
Please contribute you own observations, however simple. I will keep the checklist up-to-date and will add new and historic observations when I have them.