Ocean Dynamics

, Volume 63, Issue 11–12, pp 1293–1306 | Cite as

Man-induced regime shifts in small estuaries—II: a comparison of rivers

  • Johan C. WinterwerpEmail author
  • Zheng Bing Wang
  • Alexander van Braeckel
  • Gijsbert van Holland
  • Frank Kösters
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Physics of Estuaries and Coastal Seas 2012


This is Part II of two papers on man-induced regime shifts in small, narrow, and converging estuaries, with focus on the interaction between effective hydraulic drag, fine sediment import, and tidal amplification, induced by river engineering works, e.g., narrowing and deepening. Paper I describes a simple linear analytical model for the tidal movement in narrow, converging estuaries and a conceptual model on the response of tidal rivers to river engineering works. It is argued that such engineering works may set in motion a snowball effect bringing the river into an alternative steady state. Part II analyses the historic development in tidal range in four rivers, e.g., the Elbe, Ems, Loire, and Scheldt, all in northwest Europe; data are available for many decades, up to a century. We use the analytical model derived in Part I, showing that the effective hydraulic drag in the Ems and Loire has decreased considerably over time, as anticipated in Part I. We did not find evidence that the Upper Sea Scheldt is close to its tipping point towards hyperturbid conditions, but risks have been identified. In the Elbe, tidal reflections against the profound step in bed level around Hamburg seem to have affected the tidal evolution in the last decades. It is emphasized that the conceptual picture sketched in these papers is still hypothetical and needs to be validated, for instance through hind-cast modeling of the evolution of these rivers. This will not be an easy task, as historical data for a proper calibration of the models required are scarce.


Tidal amplification Hydraulic drag Dispersion equation Regime shift Elbe Ems Loire Scheldt 



This work was carried within the framework of the LTV project, which is the acronym for the Long-Term Vision of Scheldt estuary with respect to Safety, Accessibility and Nature, in which the following subprojects are integrated: Maintaining fairways Scheldt estuary, Permits for disposal of dredged sediments and the so-called KPP (knowledge of primary processes) program of Rijkswaterstaat. The study was financed by the Flemish “Afdeling Maritieme Toegang” (Maritime Department) and Rijkswaterstaat, Waterdienst, and Directorate Zeeland (the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment). The subject of the research in this paper was formulated by Mr. Youri Meersschaut requesting the analysis of the fine sediment dynamics in the Scheldt River. Further, we like to thank Dr. Henk Schuttelaars for his many constructive comments and ongoing discussions on this subject, and Dr. Tom de Mulder for reviewing an earlier report of this study. We also would like to acknowledge the help of Mr. Marcel Taal in organizing and coordinating our study.

The results in this paper are based on a large number of data from a variety of sources. Some data sets were available at Deltares in reports, or in digital form from studies carried out earlier. Other data have been prepared and made available especially for this project. We would like to thank the following people for their support and supply of data: Mr. Frederik Roose (Flemish Government) for Scheldt data; Dr. Luc Hamm (Sogreah) for information on the Loire; Dr. Harro Heijer and Mr. Jens Jürges (BAW) for data on the Ems, Weser, and Elbe river; and Prof. Ian Townend for data on the Thames and Severn estuaries. Furthermore, Dr. Holger Weilbeer (BAW) and Dr. Jens Kappenberg (Helmholz Centre) were helpful in some discussions on the Elbe and Ems Rivers.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Johan C. Winterwerp
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Zheng Bing Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Alexander van Braeckel
    • 3
  • Gijsbert van Holland
    • 4
  • Frank Kösters
    • 5
  1. 1.Deltares (formerly WL|Delft Hydraulics)DelftThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Environmental Fluid MechanicsDelft University of TechnologyDelftThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Research Institute for Nature and ForestBrusselsBelgium
  4. 4.IMDCAntwerpBelgium
  5. 5.Bundesanstalt für WasserbauHamburgGermany

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