Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Understanding estuaries

Some marine habitats show extraordinary high biological diversity and activity. Some of these biological hotspots are found on large, man-made infrastructures, such as wind parks. Others are created by organisms themselves such as mussels, oysters, corals and seagrasses. These ecosystem engineers modify the environment to their own needs, while at the same time providing a substrate for associated species. We are interested in the interaction of these organisms with their environment, and to what extent their presence affects other organisms and the functioning of the marine environment.

Adapting ecosystems

Sea level rise is an imminent threat to many estuarine ecosystems. How can they adapt to the changing conditions. Do the biological-physical feedbacks that characterise many estuarine ecosystems amplify their ability to keep up. How does the spatial complexity that defines many salt marshes and mussel reefs affect their adaptive capacity. These are a number of the key questions that we address at the EDS department.

Ecosystem engineers

Many marine species have specific traits that allow them to modify their local environment. These so-called ecosystem engineers shape the intertidal landscape (BioGeoMorphic landscapes) and by doing so, they can have profound effects on the dynamics of estuarine ecosystems. We aim to develop fundamental insight in how different organism-traits affect ecosystem functioning.

Signalling change

In the field observations often lack sufficient scale. Therefore we use remote sensing, such as satellite images, near-surface camera data and airborne surveys to elucidate estuarine and coastal processes at a multitude of spatial and temporal scales. We investigate how the seascape is shaped by the interaction between organisms, hydrodynamics and human impact, and how seascapes adapt to climate change and human impact.

Sea Level change

Sea level integrates many different processes in the climate system. It is an interplay of processes in the ocean, on land, in the atmosphere and in the solid earth. In the Sea Level Centre we combine models and observations of each of these processes to get a better understanding of the causes of sea-level change worldwide with the focus on the Dutch Delta and the Dutch part of the Wadden Sea. 

Digital Lab Facility

To understand how coastal ecosystems are affected by climate change, and to forecast how they will change and adapt, it is essential to collect environmental data and to integrate these into mathematical models. We use a range of techniques to collect large amounts of data with modern technology. Processing these datasets and integrating them in mathematical, physical and visual models is the core business of the digital lab facility (DigiLab).