Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

Dutch Delta

A protective boundary between land and sea, and a principal research area

The Dutch Delta, which has shaped the Netherlands, is under severe pressure from expanding human activities. Yet its deltas and estuaries are crucial for coastal defense, absorbing pollutants and as habitat for many species.

The Netherlands is located at the end of three important European rivers: the Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt. As a consequence, the Netherlands has to a large extent been governed by deltas and estuaries.

NIOZ Yerseke, home to the department of Estuarine and Delta Systems (EDS), is located in the southern Dutch Delta, on the Eastern Scheldt.

Typical Dutch landscape

The natural landscape of the Dutch Delta was made up of open or vegetated wetlands under tidal influence – a landscape shaped by the interactions between physical and biological processes

Today, not much of this pristine landscape remains. In the southern Dutch Delta, in the provinces of Zeeland and Zuid-Holland, much of the original intertidal marshes and tidal flats have been lost. They have been replaced by the extensive embankments for which the Netherlands is famous, while the closure of sea-arms has turned much of the former Delta into lakes.

Increasing economic pressure still continues to degrade estuary habitats, for instance by dredging of waterways to facilitate ever-larger ships.

Yet parts of the ecologically valuable tidal flats and wetlands still remain.

Salt marshes and tidal flats

It is increasingly realised that estuarine salt marshes and tidal flats provide important services to our society, as they absorb wave energy to provide protection against stormy seas.

Vice versa, wetlands absorb and transform human nutrients and waste products, thereby protecting the sea against our polluting society. This makes it of crucial importance to conserve the few wetlands that remain, and to restore wetlands in areas where it is most direly needed.

NIOZ research in Yerseke

The EDS department in Yerseke works on a better understanding of these estuarine and tidal landscapes, with major questions such as:

  • How does the interplay between organisms, hydrodynamics, sediment dynamics and chemistry shape the tidal landscape?
  • How do these factors affect the functioning and resilience of the diverse natural communities living in these landscapes?

When we better understand the dynamics of these communities, they may prove a very useful natural and biologically rich component of our coastal defense.

More information

For more information about NIOZ research in the Dutch Delta, please contact prof. dr. Johan van de Koppel.

Linked Projects

EMODnet_The European Marine Observation and Data Network
Supervisor
Karline Soetaert
Funder
European Community
Project duration
19 Apr 2017 - 18 May 2019
INNOPRO_INNOvation and return improvement of mussel PROduction
Supervisor
Tjeerd Bouma
Funder
NA
Project duration
24 Jan 2017 - 31 Dec 2019
Vegetable Biomass from Sea
Supervisor
Klaas Timmermans
Funder
Provincie Noord-Holland
Project duration
1 Jan 2017 - 1 Oct 2018
ALL-RISK Analyzing ecosystem dynamics & optimizing grazing management
Supervisor
Tjeerd Bouma
Funder
STW
Project duration
1 Jan 2017 - 31 Dec 2020

News and updates

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Tuesday 28 March 2017
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Zeegrasvelden zijn uiterst productieve bio-bouwers die in kustgebieden over de hele wereld hun eigen leefomgeving vormen. Het areaal van deze belangrijke gebieden daalt momenteel drastisch, onder andere door watervervuiling. Om zeegrasvelden in de…