Modeling the bio-geomorphic evolution of Hedwige and Prosper polders into a tidal marsh

Tidal marshes are complex ecosystems where tidal currents, sediments and vegetation closely interact to shape fascinating landscapes and provide valuable ecosystem services, such as protection of coastal settlements against storm impacts, nursery grounds for fishes or carbon sequestration.

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Aerial picture: Het Verdronken Land van Saeftinghe, along the Western Scheldt in the southwest Netherlands (source: www.saeftinghe.eu).

Predicting the evolution of tidal marshes requires complex numerical methods to couple hydrodynamics, morphodynamics and vegetation dynamics models, which all operate at very different time scales (hours to decades) and spatial scales (meters to kilometers).

In this project, we are developing a novel approach to predict the evolution of Hedwige and Prosper polders, an agricultural area of 465 ha along the Western Scheldt, at the Belgian/Dutch border, which will be restored into estuarine nature in the coming years (more information).

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Animation: one of our predictions for the evolution of Hedwige and Prosper polders, after de-embankment.

Supporting publications

C. Schwarz, O. Gourgue, J. van Belzen, Z. Zhu, T.J. Bouma, J. Van de Koppel, G. Ruessink, N. Claude and S. Temmerman. Self-organization of a biogeomorphic landscape controlled by plant life-history traits. Nature Geoscience, 11:672-677, 2018.
https://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41561-018-0180-y

And more to come…

In collaboration with

Prof. Stijn Temmerman (University of Antwerp, Belgium)
Prof. Johan van de Koppel (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research)
Jim van Belzen (Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research & University of Antwerp)
Christian Schwarz (Utrecht University, Netherlands)