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Hydromorphological characterization of benthic habitats and species distributions in the Scheldt Estuary

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External Organisations

  • Waterbouwkundig Laboratorium Antwerpen


Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 9-Sep-2015
EventECSA 55 Unbounded boundaries and shifting baselines: Estuaries and coastal seas in a rapidly changing world - London Excel, Londen, United Kingdom
Duration: 6-Sep-20159-Sep-2015
Conference number: ECSA 55


ConferenceECSA 55 Unbounded boundaries and shifting baselines
CountryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


within Session : Biology and ecology of coastal and estuarine systems: Evolution, adaptation and shifting baselines

Hydromorphological characterization of benthic habitats and species distributions in the Scheldt Estuary

Over the last decades the Scheldt Estuary has been altered by anthropogenic measures such as channel widening and enhanced wastewater treatment. At the same time, macrobenthic invertebrate abundance decreased whereas hyperbenthic (including mysid, shrimps, and decapod shrimps) and fish species reappeared in the upstream freshwater part. To assess effects of future modifications (maintain accessibility, dumping,...) on benthic species and their communities, a better understanding of the relation with hydro- and morphodynamics is necessary.
Combining hydrodynamic and ecological modelling we have investigated the relation of benthic species and communities with morphological and hydrodynamic variables in subtidal habitats of the fresh and brackish water part of the Scheldt. Flow velocities, derived from a 2D hydrodynamic modelling, water depth, sediment characteristics and organic matter are used.
Firstly, a multivariate analysis allowed for a distinction of a brackish and freshwater subtidal macrobenthic community. Secondly, within these salinity zones, maximum flood velocity explains the response of the benthic species and communities. This reflected in a typical high and low dynamic subtidal benthic community. Additionally hyperbenthic species preferred flood dominant areas within high dynamic areas. Based on a threshold analysis taking into account the most relevant variables, benthic and hyperbenthic community composition, a new habitat typology has been constructed. This typology provides an improved, ecologically validated instrument for monitoring and the assessment of future measures.

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