Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research
Royal Netherlands
Institute for Sea Research
Phone number
+31 (0)113 577 452
Senior Scientist

Prof. Dr. Daphne van der Wal

Senior Scientist


  • Remote sensing, Earth Observation and Geo-Information Science
  • Coastal, estuarine & delta systems
  • Geomorphology, biogeomorphology, biophysical interactions & benthic ecology
  • Nature based flood defence & ecosystem based solutions
  • Aquatic systems and water quality

Specialisation & Current positions

I am a physical geographer, specialized in coastal processes (PhD 1999, University of Amsterdam; postdoctoral research fellow 1999 up to 2002 at Royal Holloway, University of London). 

In 2002, I joined NIOO/NIOZ in Yerseke, focusing on remote sensing of tidal (eco)systems.

Since Oct 2017, I am also part-time full professor at the University of Twente, Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC).

I focus on remote sensing and geo-informatics of coastal and estuarine systems and processes. An overview of my research interests can be found in my inaugural lecture:


Remote sensing of tidal (eco)systems

The central theme of my work is to assess interactions between organisms (such as saltmarshes, algae, shellfish) and their environment, shaping the estuarine, delta and coastal landscape. 

Current research topics

  • Saltmarsh development
  • Solutions for nature-based flood defence
  • Dynamics and management of (intertidal) sediment
  • Structuring and functioning of benthic fauna communities
  • Primary production of tidal flats and waters
  • Benthic-pelagic interactions in tidal systems

Methods & techniques

I use remote sensing techniques and geo-informatics to investigate coastal and estuarine systems and processes:

  • forward and inverse modelling with remote sensing data (radar/SAR, optical and TIR satellite data, hyperspectral and LIDAR airborne data, near-surface and field measurements), 
  • spatial analyses in Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
  • combination of earth observation with field surveys and experiments, and (hydrodynamic) models

Selected projects

- NWO/NSO Ruimteonderzoek, “Saltmarshes under stress: thresholds for saltmarsh dynamics from global satellite data” (MARSH), 2017-2021. PhD candidate at NIOZ: Marieke Laengner, 2017-2021.

- EU FP7 SPACE - FAST "Foreshore Assessment using Space Technology". Consortium Deltares, University of Cambridge, NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, University of Cadiz, GeoEcoMar.  PhD candidate at NIOZ: Bas Oteman, 2014-2018.

- NWO/NSO Ruimteonderzoek: “Benthic diatoms as indicator for ecosystem structuring in shallow tidal waters. PhD candidate at NIOZ Tisja Daggers, 2013-2017.

- NWO/NSO Ruimteonderzoek: "Consequences of global change for ecosystem engineering of shellfish". PhD-candidate at NIOZ Sil Nieuwhof, 2012-2016. See Sil's PhD thesis.

Feature EU FAST:

Foreshore Assessment using Space Technology


FAST has developed services to help design nature-based flood risk strategies in foreshores, based on earth observation data and big data analysis capabilities.

Read more on EU FAST in the associated article on this Copernicus downstream service for coastal needs. See also the synthesis of results.

And try the MI-SAFE tool!

Linked news

Monday 19 February 2018
Zelforganisatie onderwaterplanten houdt rivieren gezond
Onderwaterplanten spelen een essentiële rol om rivieren en waterlopen gezond te houden. Biologe Loreta Cornacchia van het Koninklijk Instituut voor Onderzoek der Zee (NIOZ) ondervond dat de waterplant sterrenkroos een regelmatig verspreid 'klonterig'…
Friday 09 June 2017
Langzamer herstel kondigt kantelpunten aan in kustecosystemen
~ ENGLISH version below Dutch version ~ Ecosystemen kunnen plotseling verloren gaan wanneer de druk te groot wordt. Het voorspellen van het kantelpunt is dan ook van groot belang. Wiskundige modellen lieten al mogelijke waarschuwingssignalen zien.…

NIOZ publications

  • 2019
    Cornacchia, L.; van der Wal, D.; van de Koppel, J.; Puijalon, S.; Wharton, G.; Bouma, T.J. (2019). Flow-divergence feedbacks control propagule retention by in-stream vegetation: the importance of spatial patterns for facilitation. Aquat. Sci. 81(1): 17.
    Oteman, B.; Morris, E.P.; Peralta, G.; Bouma, T.J.; van der Wal, D. (2019). Using remote sensing to identify drivers behind spatial patterns in the bio-physical properties of a saltmarsh pioneer. Remote Sens. 11(5): 511.
  • 2018
    Cornacchia, L.; Folkard, A.; Davies, G.; Grabowski, R.C.; van de Koppel, J.; van der Wal, D.; Wharton, G.; Puijalon, S.; Bouma, T.J. (2019). Plants face the flow in V formation: A study of plant patch alignment in streams. Limnol. Oceanogr. 64(3): 1087-1102.
    Cornacchia, L.; Licci, S.; Nepf, H.; Folkard, A.; van der Wal, D.; van de Koppel, J.; Puijalon, S.; Bouma, T.J. (2019). Turbulence-mediated facilitation of resource uptake in patchy stream macrophytes. Limnol. Oceanogr. 64(2): 714-727.
    Cornacchia, L.; van de Koppel, J.; van der Wal, D.; Wharton, G.; Puijalon, S.; Bouma, T.J. (2018). Landscapes of facilitation: how self-organized patchiness of aquatic macrophytes promotes diversity in streams. Ecology 99(4): 832-847.
    Daggers, T.D.; Kromkamp, J.C.; Herman, P.M.J.; van der Wal, D. (2018). A model to assess microphytobenthic primary production in tidal systems using satellite remote sensing. Remote Sens. Environ. 211: 129-145.
    de Vries, M.; Möller, I.; Peralta, G.; van der Wal, D.; van Wesenbeeck, B.; Stanica, A. (Ed.) (2018). Earth observation and the coastal zone: from global images to local information. FAST FP7 Project synthesis. GeoEcoMar: Bucuresti. ISBN 978-606-94282-5-2. 66 pp.
    de Vries, M.B.; Möller, I.; Peralta, G.; Morris, E.; Stanica, A.; Scrieciu, A.; van der Wal, D.; van Wesenbeeck, B. (2018). Earth observation and the coastal zone: from global images to local information, in: The ever growing use of Copernicus across Europe's regions: a selection of 99 user stories by local and regional authorities. pp. 148-149
    Hu, Z.; van der Wal, D.; Cai, H.; van Belzen, J.; Bouma, T.J. (2018). Dynamic equilibrium behaviour observed on two contrasting tidal flats from daily monitoring of bed-level changes. Geomorphology (Amst.) 311: 114-126.
    Ma, Z.; Ysebaert, T.; van der Wal, D.; Herman, P.M.J. (2018). Conditional effects of tides and waves on short-term marsh sedimentation dynamics. Earth Surf. Process. Landforms 43(10): 2243-2255.
    Nieuwhof, S.; van Belzen, J.; Oteman, B.; van de Koppel, J.; Herman, P.M.J.; van der Wal, D. (2018). Shellfish reefs increase water storage capacity on intertidal flats over extensive spatial scales. Ecosystems 21(2): 360-372.
    Willemsen, P.W.J.M.; Borsje, B.W.; Hulscher, S.J.M.H.; van der Wal, D.; Zhu, Z.; Oteman, B.; Evans, B.; Möller, I.; Bouma, T.J. (2018). Quantifying bed level change at the transition of tidal flat and salt marsh: can we understand the lateral location of the marsh edge? Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 123(10): 2509-2524.
  • 2017
    Gillis, L.G.; Jones, C.G.; Ziegler, A.D.; van der Wal, D.; Breckwoldt, A.; Bouma, T.J. (2017). Opportunities for Protecting and Restoring Tropical Coastal Ecosystems by Utilizing a Physical Connectivity Approach. Front. Mar. Sci. 4: 374.
    Hu, Z.; Yao, P.; van der Wal, D.; Bouma, T.J. (2017). Patterns and drivers of daily bed-level dynamics on two tidal flats with contrasting wave exposure. NPG Scientific Reports 7(1): 9 pp.
    van Belzen, J.; van de Koppel, J.; Kirwan, M.L.; van der Wal, D.; Herman, P.M.J.; Dakos, V.; Kéfi, S.; Scheffer, M.; Guntenspergen, G.R.; Bouma, T.J. (2017). Vegetation recovery in tidal marshes reveals critical slowing down under increased inundation. Nature Comm. 8: 15811.
    van Belzen, J.; van de Koppel, J.; van der Wal, D.; Herman, P.M.J.; Dakos, V.; Kéfi, S.; Scheffer, M.; Bouma, T.J. (2017). Timing recovery of ecosystems in sequential remotely sensed and simulated data . Protocol Exchange June 2017.
    van der Wal, D.; Lambert, G.I.; Ysebaert, T.; Plancke, Y.; Herman, P.M.J. (2017). Hydrodynamic conditioning of diversity and functional traits in subtidal estuarine macrozoobenthic communities. Est., Coast. and Shelf Sci. 197: 80-92.
    van der Wal, D.; Ysebaert, T.; Herman, P.M.J. (2017). Response of intertidal benthic macrofauna to migrating megaripples and hydrodynamics. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 585: 17-30.
    Wang, H.; van der Wal, D.; Li, X.; van Belzen, J.; Herman, P.M.J.; Hu, Z.; Ge, Z.; Zhang, L.; Bouma, T.J. (2017). Zooming in and out: scale dependence of extrinsic and intrinsic factors affecting salt marsh erosion. Journal of Geophysical Research-Earth Surface 122(7): 1455-1470.
  • 2016
    Cornacchia, L.; Licci, S.; van de Koppel, J.; van der Wal, D.; Wharton, G.; Puijalon, S.; Bouma, T.J. (2016). Flow Velocity and Morphology of a Submerged Patch of the Aquatic Species Veronica anagallis-aquatica L., in: Rowinski, P. et al. Hydrodynamic and Mass Transport at Freshwater Aquatic Interfaces : 34th International School of Hydraulics. pp. 141-152
    Ysebaert, T.; Craeymeersch, J.A.M.; van der Wal, D. (2016). De relatie tussen bodemdieren en hydro- en morfodynamiek in het sublitoraal en litoraal van de Westerschelde. IMARES Wageningen Report, C066/16. IMARES Wageningen UR: Yerseke. 84 pp.
  • 2015
    Hu, Z.; Lenting, W.; Van der Wal, D.; Bouma, T.J. (2015). Continuous monitoring bed-level dynamics on an intertidal flat: Introducing novel, stand-alone high-resolution SED-sensors. Geomorphology (Amst.) 245: 223-230.
    Hu, Zhan; van Belzen, J.; Van der Wal, D.; Balke, T.; Wang, Z.B.; Stive, M.; Bouma, T. (2015). Windows of opportunity for salt marsh vegetation establishment on bare tidal flats: The importance of temporal and spatial variability in hydrodynamic forcing. J. Geophys. Res. Biogeosciences: 120(7): 1450-1469.
    Morris, E.P.; Gomez-Enri, J.; Van der Wal, D. (2015). Copernicus Downstream Service Supports Nature-Based Flood Defense Use of Sentinel Earth Observation Satellites for Coastal Needs. Sea Technol. 56(3): 23-26.
    Nieuwhof, S.; Herman, P.M.J.; Dankers, N.; Troost, K.; van der Wal, D. (2015). Remote Sensing of Epibenthic Shellfish Using Synthetic Aperture Radar Satellite Imagery. Remote Sens. 7: 3710-3734.
  • 2014
    Eleveld, M.A.; van der Wal, D.; van Kessel, T. (2014). Estuarine suspended particulate matter concentrations from sun-synchronous satellite remote sensing: tidal and meteorological effects and biases. Remote Sens. Environ. 143: 204-215.
    Ma, Z.; Ysebaert, T.; van der Wal, D.; de Jong, D.J.; Li, X; Herman, P.M.J. (2014). Long-term salt marsh vertical accretion in a tidal bay with reduced sediment supply. Est., Coast. and Shelf Sci. 146: 14-23.
    Schwarz, C.; Ye, Q.H.; van der Wal, D.; Zhang, L.Q.; Bouma, T.; Ysebaert, T.; Herman, P.M.J. (2014). Impacts of salt marsh plants on tidal channel initiation and inheritance. J. Geophys. Res. Earth Surface, 119(2): 385-400.
    van der Wal, D.; van Dalen, J.; Wielemaker-van den Dool, A.; Dijkstra, J.T.; Ysebaert, T. (2014). Biophysical control of intertidal benthic macroalgae revealed by high-frequency multispectral camera images. J. Sea Res. 90: 111-120.
  • 2013
    Compton, T.J.; Holthuijsen, S.; Koolhaas, A.; Dekinga, A.; ten Horn, J.; Smith, J.; Brugge, M.; van der Wal, D.; van der Meer, J.; van der Veer, H.W.; Piersma, T. (2013). Distinctly variable mudscapes: Distribution gradients of intertidal macrofauna across the Dutch Wadden Sea. J. Sea Res. 82: 103-116.
  • 2012
    Balke, T.; Klaassen, P.C.; Garbutt, A.; van der Wal, D.; Herman, P.M.J.; Bouma, T.J. (2012). Conditional outcome of ecosystem engineering: a case study on tussocks of the salt marsh pioneer Spartina anglica. Geomorphology (Amst.) 153-154: 232-238.
    van der Wal, D.; Herman, P.M.J. (2012). Ecosystem engineering effects of Aster tripolium and Salicornia procumbens salt marsh on macrofaunal community structure. Est. Coast. 35(3): 714-726.
  • 2011
    van Belzen, J.; van der Wal, D.; Bouma, T.; Herman, P.; Van de Koppel, J. (2011). Chess at the mudflat: Disturbance and recovery at salt-marsh pioneer zones. Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW), Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology: Yerseke. 1 poster pp.
    van der Wal, D.; Forster, R.M.; Rossi, F.; Hummel, H.; Ysebaert, T.; Roose, F.; Herman, P.M.J. (2011). Ecological evaluation of an experimental beneficial use scheme for dredged sediment disposal in shallow tidal waters. Mar. Pollut. Bull. 62(1): 99-108.

Linked projects

FAST_Foreshore assessment using space technology
Daphne van der Wal
European Community
Project duration
1 Jan 2014 - 31 Dec 2017
NWO_BenthicDiatoms as indicators for ecosystem structuring in tidal shallow waters
Daphne van der Wal
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Project duration
1 Jul 2013 - 1 Feb 2018
NWO_Ruimteonderzoek_Consequences of global change for ecosystem engineering of shellfish
Daphne van der Wal
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Project duration
1 Jan 2012 - 30 Aug 2016
MARSH_Saltmarshes under stress
Daphne van der Wal
Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research
Project duration
1 Jul 2016 - 30 Jun 2020