Site details

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Flag of Netherlands
              Other Site (estuaries, pelagic, deep-sea)

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Saeftinghe: one of Europe’s largest saltmarshes in the Westerschelde. Photo: NIOO-CEME

Synoptic description of site:

Estuary in SW Netherlands, rather strong impact by domestic wastes.

Extensive description of site:

The Westerschelde, in South-west Netherlands, is a 160 km long estuary with a maximum depth of 30 m. Its banks are enforced with dikes. The tides go up to the city of Ghent, Belgium. The Westerschelde is one of the only two remaining estuaries in the Netherlands, yet is rather polluted.

Habitats present:
Seagrass beds 

Description of fauna and flora:

The fauna and flora, typical for estuaries, are well documented, and have been studied since 1959 when the NIOO-CEME started to monitor the consequences of the construction of a series of strengthened dikes and barriers in SW Netherlands (the Delta project to protect against storm surges).

Human impact:

Irrespective strong regulations on municipal and industrial wastewater, the Westerschelde suffers, due to high concentrations of industry and major cities along its borders, from a high level of pollution. A small impact arises from fishing on shrimps and flatfish.


All facilities for marine biodiversity research are available: a seagoing research vessel, fully equipped laboratories, and sophisticated experimental facilities such as mesocosms and a flume tank.

Available database and website:

Species inventories and information on environmental factors are available in different databases, the most extensive on zoomacrobenthos in the BIS (Benthos Information System) database at NIOO-CEME (, and on abiotic factors at RWS-RIKZ (

Datasets covering this area:


Commitment and ongoing research:

The Centre for Estuarine and Marine Ecology of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-CEME), based in Yerseke, has ongoing research in the Westerschelde regarding several ecological topics, including biodiversity. It is funded by the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, and able to commit itself to long-term research on European marine biodiversity issues.