, Volume 282, Issue 1, pp 1–14

The Oosterschelde estuary, a case-study of a changing ecosystem: an introduction

  • P. H. Nienhuis
  • A. C. Smaal

DOI: 10.1007/BF00024616

Cite this article as:
Nienhuis, P.H. & Smaal, A.C. Hydrobiologia (1994) 282: 1. doi:10.1007/BF00024616


During the period 1980–1990 long-term physical, chemical and ecological studies were carried out, to study the changes induced by the building of a storm-surge barrier in the mouth of the Oosterschelde estuary and two large auxiliary compartment dams in the rear ends of the estuary. The storm-surge barrier was constructed in the mouth of Oosterschelde estuary (SW Netherlands) during the period 1979–1986. The barrier allows the tides to enter the estuary freely, and, on the other hand, the barrier guarantees safety for the human population and their properties when a stormflood threatens the area.

Oosterschelde estuary is isolated from the river input, the rear ends of the ecosystem were separated from the estuary by sea-walls and the strongly decreased tidal exchange with the North Sea induced sheltered circumstances. The Oosterschelde changed from a turbid estuary into a tidal bay, and yet primary production responses appear to be robust and resilient, and the biological communities showed only quantitative shifts from the dominance of specific species assemblages to other assemblages. In many cases predicted changes in the structure of the biological communities could not be verified owing to the large natural variability mainly caused by physical factors (e.g. temperature).

Key words

Oosterschelde estuarycivil engineering worksstorm-surge barrierhydrographical changeslong-term ecological changescommunity and ecosystem responses

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • P. H. Nienhuis
    • 1
  • A. C. Smaal
    • 2
  1. 1.Netherlands Institute of EcologyYersekeThe Netherlands
  2. 2.National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management/RIKZMiddelburgThe Netherlands