VB Estuary Management in the North Sea Region

Project Title
VB Estuary Management in the North Sea Region
Priority 3 Sustainable North Sea Region: Protecting against climate change and preserving the environment
Lead Beneficiary
Dep. of Mobility and Public Works - Maritime Access division
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Contact Person Last Name
Tavernierkaai 3
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Central Aim

The overall aim of this project is to ensure and maintain the sustainability and accessibility of estuary sites in the North Sea Region. Using the latest scientific knowledge available throughout the North Sea Region, the project will advance existing management strategies a step forward by developing and adapting measures to address new as well as most pressing management challenges at specific estuary sites.

Project Description

Earlier projects TIDE and EMOVE showed that estuaries are subject to interrelated pressures, some of which have become more persistent since adoption of the current management plans:

  • Amplification of the tidal range leading to shifts in estuarine dynamics, import of fine sediments, and increased flood risk
  • Encroachment of salt water into ground- and surface water bodies and soils of coastal landscapes
  • Increased flood frequency due to climate change

Estuary managers need to attend to resulting management challenges, such as reducing flood risk, maintaining access to inland ports and ensuring proper relocation of dredged sediment. These are not yet sufficiently addressed by current estuary management plans and resulting measures, which are mostly based on analyses and strategies developed more than a decade ago.

Since then, new knowledge and innovative methods have become available or advanced considerably (i.e. ecosystem service valuation, system analysis, serious gaming). These approaches can be used to create a better basis for developing the most appropriate, integrated solutions to prevailing problems. They can also help overcome barriers to implementing existing solutions, such as lack of stakeholder approval.

The proposed project will employ new methods to accelerate implementation of already defined measures, as well as get stakeholder agreement on new or adapted measures. Ongoing barriers to implementation will be resolved through stakeholder engagement processes to address concerns. New or adapted measures will be developed as needed in response to prevailing management challenges. The project will support management changes at identified sites by fully evaluating feasibility and designing corresponding action plans.

Achieving the project’s aim requires a range of partners and activities specific to both estuary sites and across the region. Sites include those investigated in TIDE and EMOVE, as well as additional estuaries facing similar challenges. By involving public authorities, researchers, and civil society organisations, management strategies at specific estuary sites will be updated through a process to bridge the gaps between knowledge generation, stakeholder interests and on-the-ground implementation. Transnational cooperation to exchange knowledge and best practices will enhance strategies to address common challenges.

Envisaged Output

Long-term sustainability of North Sea Region estuaries will be advanced by updated management strategies and increased stakeholder buy-in. Innovative measures will be developed and disseminated through specific outputs, currently under discussion:

  • Priority ratings of which measures need to be adapted or developed in response to management challenges
  • Relevant scientific studies that provide information necessary for developing measures
  • Targeted stakeholder communications to increase scientific understanding of measures
  • Feasibility studies and action plans for new and adapted measures
  • Stakeholder agreements and policy changes in support of implementation
What is the need for this project?

Estuaries are amongst the most socio-economically and ecologically important environments.

  • They are often the sites of major cities and ports and support large urban, agricultural and industrial areas surrounding the estuaries and in their catchments; providing conditions for a multitude of uses such as agricultural land reclamation and food production, harbours and navigation, fishery and aquaculture, mineral extraction, energy generation as well as tourism and recreation.
  • They provide highly valuable habitats; safeguard biological diversity protecting numerous species of plants and animals from extinction and serving as nursery areas for marine fishes as well as overwintering areas for wading birds. Moreover they recycle nutrients and contaminants. Thus many estuary segments are designated Natura 2000 reserves/sites.

Estuaries are also the final recipient of much of the pollution carried by rivers and that originates at sea. They are highly complex and dynamic environments, which are to a large extent unpredictable and exhibit strong reactions to human interventions, which are further exacerbated by variable environmental conditions (i.e. climate change). Understanding and managing these changes, while simultaneously addressing challenges posed by the multitude of stakeholder interests, is a substantial task for public authorities. This requires sound communication strategies and engagement mechanisms to interpret complex scientific concepts for different target groups.

Numerous management plans have been prepared in the past as a reaction to issues such as flood prevention, sediment dynamics, deepening of waterways and/or in compliance to EU directives. These plans form the basis for subsequent measures, which have or are still being realized. The proposed project will advance the development of measures to address management challenges in an era where greater flexibility is needed due to changing environmental conditions and uncertainty.

Governance and stakeholder support are key components for implementing large-scale projects, which do not only imply substantial financial resources but also have long term and substantial impact. Estuary partnerships provide a platform for cross-sectorial communication, and these will benefit from the projects results as well as from transnational exchange of experiences.

Thematic Keywords
Adaptation and resilience
Build with nature
Ecosystem management
Ecosystem services
Flood control
Stakeholder involvement
Sustainable environmental management
Other Keywords
Estuary, Sediment management
Partners Found Already

Confirmed: Flemish Ministry of Mobility and Public Works (MOW), Lead Partner; Antwerp Port Authority; Deltares; Rijkswaterstaat; Hamburg Port Authority (HPA); University of Hull, Institute for Estuarine and Coastal Studies

To be confirmed: University of Antwerp; Flemish Waterways and Sea Canals Authority; German Federal Waterways Engineering and Research Institute; Küste und Raum (KuR): Ahlhorn & Meyerdirks GbR; Waterways and Shipping Administration of the German Federal Government (WSV); Free City of Bremen Senate for Economy, Work and Harbor; Lower Saxony Water Management, Coastal Defence and Nature Conservation Agency; Lower Saxony Ministry for Environmental Protection, Energy and Climate Change; Bremenports; Norwegian Geological Institute; Port of Gothenburg; Karlstad University; IVL Swedish Environmental Institute; COWI; UK Environment Agency; Humber Nature Partnership;

Partners Searched

Estuary managers, waterway managers, environmental agencies, port authorities, knowledge institutions, ...

Estimated Budget

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