Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research

Extreme estuaries

Greenland fjord ecosystems are profoundly impacted by large increase of freshwater input from the melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet. This strongly affects the physical oceanography of these estuaries but also their ecosystem functioning.

Extreme subsidence
Land subsidence can increase the effects of sea level rise by a factor of 10. Large coastal cities such as Jakarta are sinking due to subsidence of the land by 30 centimeters per year. The sinking of coastal areas is often caused by pumping up water or fossil fuels from deep underground. For instance, the Wadden Islands, are sinking due to gas extraction, like a sponge that shrinks when the water is squeezed out.

At the EDS department, we conduct research into the effects of extreme land subsidence on ecosystems. We answer questions such as: how much can mangroves and salt marshes sink before they drown? And we try to find out under what conditions salt marsh and mangroves can keep growing to prevent them form drowning. This type of information can then be used by policymakers to lend salt marshes and mangroves a hand. An ecosystem that can keep up with sea level rise and land subsidence, is in fact very useful for protecting dikes and can therefore be used for coastal protection.

Extreme urbanization
The majority of the people live along the delta’s and coasts of our planet. In South-East Asia you will find the largest population densities along the delta’s and coasts, often consisting of multi-million cities. In the face of global climate change and sea-level rise, these densely populated areas increasingly risk to be flooded. Natural ecosystems may help as flood protection, but are typically negatively affected by the dense populations. We aim to understand how to preserve, manage and restore ecosystems (and their services) in these densely populated systems, by understanding their main driving processes.