AbstractRegional variations in eutrophication levels of tidal basins in the Wadden Sea can be caused by external factors, like organic matter import, and internal factors like the morphology and hydrodynamics of the receiving tidal basin. For instance, benthic nutrients from remineralized organic matter may be more concentrated in shallow basins or diluted in basins with high exchange rates. In addition, the location of a monitoring station may determine which basin-specific water masses are actually observed. In the present paper a hydrodynamic intertidal imprint (IMP) is estimated for ten stations in various tidal basins of the Wadden Sea. The fraction of time water masses spent in intertidal areas prior to observation is calculated by linking the Lagrangian transport module PELETS to already existing hourly reconstructions of currents between 1959 and 2003. Irrespective of water depth, additional calculations of mean residence times (MRT) in the Wadden Sea indicate whether, in the case of low IMP values, water masses originate from coastal areas or tidal channels. Results show distinct regional differences, with highest values in the eastern part of the Dutch sector of the southern Wadden Sea (IMP=77%, MRT=99%) and lowest values in the German/Danish sector of the northern Wadden Sea (IMP=1.1%, MRT=21%). The IMP correlates positively with observed nutrient levels (R2=0.83). Evidently, this residence time-based intertidal signal is pivotal in explaining regional variations in eutrophication levels revealed by long-term comparative data from different monitoring stations.