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Mitig Adapt Strateg Glob Chang. 2015;20(6):929-948. doi: 10.1007/s11027-015-9640-5. Epub 2015 Mar 25.

Salt marshes to adapt the flood defences along the Dutch Wadden Sea coast.

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Earth System Science Group, Wageningen University & Research Centre, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands.


Concern about the effects of climate change have set in motion a search for flood protection measures to adapt coastlines to the foreseen accelerated sea level rise. In this context, the potential role of salt marshes to adapt the Wadden Sea's flood defences was explored in the Netherlands Wadden Region Delta Programme. This paper provides an overview of the steps taken by the programme in developing a climate change adaptation strategy so that others might learn from its experiences. The second aim is to summarize the knowledge generated by the programme on the potential role of salt marshes as part of a climate change adaption strategy. Explorative modelling results indicate that Wadden Sea salt marshes affect wave heights, even under extreme conditions. Therefore, a salt-marsh zone in front of the Wadden Sea dikes that could keep pace with sea level rise may result in a reduced dike reinforcement task. A salt marsh potential map gives a rough impression of locations that are potentially interesting for salt marsh conservation and development, based on the current situation, on available information about abiotic conditions for salt marsh formation and the habitats present in the coastal zone. Besides elongated stretches were seminatural salt marshes are already present or developing, several stretches along the Dutch Wadden Sea coast have favourable abiotic conditions for salt marsh development. However, the prospects for integrating salt marshes into flood defences depend also on other aspects. Various nature conservation agreements are in effect with their associated obligations. Furthermore, the foreseen value of salt marsh development compared to traditional reinforcements, in terms of both costs and benefits, must be considered.


Adaptation strategy; Delta Programme; Flood protection; Salt marsh potential map; Wave damping

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