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"Building a Resilient Scheldt Delta" Conference; Vlissingen, Netherlands; June 1-2, 2017

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Summary: During June 1-2, 2017, the Delta Academy (an academy within HZ University of Applied Sciences) and Rijkswaterstaat (Netherlands' Department of Waterways and Public Works) hosted the "Building a Resilient Scheldt Delta" Conference. The conference attracted an international gathering of approximately 160 people, which included eco-engineers, civil engineers, biologist, water managers, social scientists and students for the purpose of discussing current applied research focused on sediment management, spatial adaptation and restoring the natural dynamics and biodiversity in the Scheldt Delta. During the conference, participants identified seven 'living lab' projects within the Scheldt Delta and adjacent waters. The 'living lab' projects will offer students, scientists, engineers and water managers a diverse number of collaborative opportunities to conduct applied research and deploy innovative solutions that promote a resilient Scheldt Delta.

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Background: The Scheldt Delta is a biodiverse area, a hub of migration routes for fish and birds, and it also offers a productive and safe area for people to live and work. The Eastern Scheldt (the Oosterschelde) is rich in shellfish and includes a coastline is well-visited by tourists while the Western Scheldt (Westerschelde) serves as a busy sea route, which is the waterway that connects the port of Antwerp (Belgium) to the sea. The previous examples highlight the multi-use composition of the Scheldt Delta and also illustrate the challenges with maintaining a resilient system. Additionally, the effects of sea level rise, subsidence, degradation of nature, and navigability for increasingly larger ships currently affects this area and will do so for the foreseeable future. During this conference, the organizers, partners and invited participants shared their experiences of "building with nature" in the Scheldt Delta. They presented results of recent applied research that highlighted smart sediment management, spatial adaptation and restoring the natural dynamics and biodiversity. Pilot-scale projects conducted by the Flemish and Dutch partners within the Smart Sediment project were also discussed. In this example, innovative sediment management has contributed directly to restoration of the natural environment.

New ideas for the Scheldt Estuary were also discussed with respect to similar, "building with nature" initiatives within other estuaries, coastal zones and tidal basins. For example, during workshop sessions at the conference, Dr. Jeffrey King (US Army Corps of Engineers) and Dr. Candice Piercy (US Army Corps of Engineers) presented case studies and highlighted the latest research and development initiatives within the Engineering with Nature (EWN) Initiative.

Oesterdam Sand Nourishment With Reefs (Eastern Scheldt)
Roggenplaat and Storm Surge Barrier (Eastern Scheldt)

Outcomes: As a result of the workshop sessions offered during the conference, the organizers, partners, students and additional participants identified seven living lab initiatives within the Scheldt Delta. Living lab initiatives included, but were not limited to innovative and applied research that: restores the natural gradients on the border of land and sea; promotes the stability of dikes, dunes and foreshore; and supports sustainable waterway maintenance and the expansion of ports. The 'living lab' initiatives will be further refined and developed over the next several weeks. In turn, the partnering organizations will pursue these initiatives as determined by the designated principal investigators and local sponsors. The identification and pursuit of these important projects, coupled with the highly collaborative engagement by all participants, is a testimony to the success of the "Building a Resilient Scheldt Delta" Conference. Please check the EWN website periodically for future updates on the 'living lab' initiatives, or you can visit the Delta Academy's website at https://hz.nl/en/lectureships/building-with-nature. Also, a link to the Delta Academy's fact sheet for their Applied Research Center's Building with Nature (BwN) Program is located at the bottom of this page.

For more information please contact:

  • Dr. Joost Stronkhorst
  • Lector/Professor Building with Nature
  • Building with Nature Research Group
  • Delta Academy of Applied Research Center
  • Email: joost.stronkhorst@deltares.nl
  • Dr. Matthijs Boersema
  • Group Manager and Researcher of Hydraulics/Morphology
  • Building with Nature Research Group
  • Delta Academy of Applied Research Center
  • Email: matthijs.boersema@hz.nl
  • Dr. Jeffrey King
  • Assistant Program Manager for Engineering with Nature
  • US Army's Engineer Research and Development Center
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Email: jeff.k.king@usace.army.mil
  • Delta Academy Applied Research Centre; Research group: Building with Nature [Fact Sheet] (PDF)
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