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Turning the tide: dynamics of channels and shoals in estuaries with sand and mud

Channel-shoal dynamics in estuaries result from geomorphological processes and human interference, for which experiments and numerical models were built

How are the large-scale patterns and changes of tidal channels and banks in estuaries linked to small-scale processes of sediment transport? What are the effects of dredging on these, and how do such disturbances move through the channel network depending on where dredged material is dumped?

The aims were to better understand and model these processes and communicate them to policy makers, managers and the general public, especially schoolchildren. New models and data from the field and from experiments now provide a better understanding of patterns and dynamics at three scales: the sediment transport processes, the channels and banks and entire estuaries. Effects of dredging on large-scale patterns and dynamics and on the habitats of key ecosystems have been demonstrated in models, data and experiments in an innovative laboratory facility, the Metronome, and quantified using a new code to identify gully networks. Possible effects of increased turbidity and of sea level rise were predicted and explained with generic models. Mini-Metronomes have been placed at various locations around the country to teach technology.

List of publications

Academic publications

Baar, Anne W., Weisscher, Steven A.H. & Kleinhans, Maarten G. (2020). Interaction between lateral sorting in river bends and vertical sorting in dunes. Sedimentology, 67 (1), (pp. 606-626) (21 p.).

Iwantoro, A.P., van der Vegt, M. & Kleinhans, M.G. (2020). Morphological evolution of bifurcations in tide-influenced deltas. Earth Surface Dynamics, 8 (2), (pp. 413-429).

van der Werf, Karianne, Gilissen, H.K., Kleinhans, M.G. & van Rijswick, H.F.M.W. (2020). On dynamic naturalness, static regulation and human influence in the Ems-Dollard estuary. International Journal of Water Resources Development, (pp. 1-20) (21 p.).

Hiatt, Matthew, Sonke, Willem, Addink, Elisabeth A., van Dijk, Wout M., van Kreveld, Marc, Ophelders, Tim, Verbeek, Kevin, Vlaming, Joyce, Speckmann, Bettina & Kleinhans, Maarten G. (2020). Geometry and Topology of Estuary and Braided River Channel Networks Automatically Extracted From Topographic Data. Journal of Geophysical Research, 125 (1) (19 p.).

Kleinhans, Maarten, van Kreveld, Marc, Ophelders, Tim, Sonke, Willem, Speckmann, Bettina & Verbeek, Kevin (2019). Computing representative networks for braided rivers. Journal of Computational Geometry, 10 (1), (pp. 423-443) (21 p.).

Baar, A. W., Boechat Albernaz, M., van Dijk, W. M. & Kleinhans, M. G. (2019). Critical dependence of morphodynamic models of fluvial and tidal systems on empirical downslope sediment transport. Nature Communications, 10 (1) (12 p.).

van Dijk, W.M., Hiatt, M.R., van der Werf, J.J. & Kleinhans, M.G. (2019). Effects of shoal margin collapses on the morphodynamics of a sandy estuary. Journal of geophysical research. Earth surface, 124 (1), (pp. 195-215).

Leuven, J. R.F.W. & Kleinhans, M. G. (2019). Incipient Tidal Bar and Sill Formation. Journal of Geophysical Research, 124 (7), (pp. 1762-1781) (20 p.).

Brückner, M.Z.M., Schwarz, C.S., van Dijk, W.M., van Oorschot, M., Douma, H. & Kleinhans, M.G. (2019). Salt Marsh Establishment and Eco‐Engineering Effects in Dynamic Estuaries Determined by Species Growth and Mortality. Journal of Geophysical Research, 124 (12), (pp. 2962-2986) (25 p.).

Leuven, J.R.F.W., Pierik, H.J., van der Vegt, M., Bouma, T.J. & Kleinhans, M.G. (04.11.2019). Sea-level-rise-induced threats depend on the size of tide-influenced estuaries worldwide. Nature Climate Change, 9 (12), (pp. 986–992) (7 p.).

Gilissen, H.K., Suykens, C.B.R., van Rijswick, H.F.M.W., Kleinhans, M.G. & van der Werf, Karianne (2019). Towards a Rights Based Approach in EU International River Basin Governance? Lessons from the Scheldt and Ems Basins. Water International, 44 (6-7), (pp. 701-718) (18 p.).

Leuven, J.R.F.W., van Maanen, B., Lexmond, Bente, van der Hoek, Bram, Spruijt, Matthijs & Kleinhans, M.G. (2018). Dimensions of fluvial-tidal meanders: Are they disproportionally large?. Geology, 46 (10), (pp. 923-926).

Braat, Lisanne, Leuven, Jasper R.F.W., Lokhorst, Ivar R. & Kleinhans, Maarten G. (01.01.2018). Effects of estuarine mudflat formation on tidal prism and large-scale morphology in experiments. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 44 (2), (pp. 417-432) (16 p.).

Leuven, J.R.F.W., Verhoeve, Steye, van Dijk, W.M., Selakovic, S. & Kleinhans, M.G. (2018). Empirical Assessment Tool for Bathymetry, Flow Velocity and Salinity in Estuaries Based on Tidal Amplitude and Remotely-Sensed Imagery. Remote Sensing, 10 (12) (32 p.).

Leuven, J. R.F.W., Braat, L., van Dijk, W. M., de Haas, T., van Onselen, E. P., Ruessink, B. G. & Kleinhans, M. G. (2018). Growing Forced Bars Determine Nonideal Estuary Planform. Journal of Geophysical Research, 123 (11), (pp. 2971-2992).

van Dijk, W.M., Mastbergen, D.R., van den Ham, G.A., Leuven, J.R.F.W. & Kleinhans, M.G. (2018). Location and probability of shoal margin collapses in a sandy estuary. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 43 (11), (pp. 2342-2357).

Leuven, Jasper R.F.W., Selakovic, S. & Kleinhans, Maarten G. (2018). Morphology of bar-built estuaries – Empirical relation between planform shape and depth distribution. Earth Surface Dynamics, 6 (3), (pp. 763-778) (16 p.).

Baar, A.W., de Smit, Jaco, Uijttewaal, W.S.J. & Kleinhans, M.G. (2018). Sediment Transport of Fine Sand to Fine Gravel on Transverse Bed Slopes in Rotating Annular Flume Experiments. Water Resources Research, 54 (1), (pp. 19-45).

Leuven, J. R.F.W., de Haas, T., Braat, L. & Kleinhans, M. G. (2018). Topographic forcing of tidal sandbar patterns for irregular estuary planforms. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 43 (1).

Braat, L., van Kessel, Thijs, Leuven, J.R.F.W. & Kleinhans, M.G. (2017). Effects of mud supply on large-scale estuary morphology and development over centuries to millennia. Earth Surface Dynamics, 5 (4), (pp. 617-652) (36 p.).

Kleinhans, M.G., Leuven, J.R.F.W., Braat, L. & Baar, A.W. (2017). Scour holes and ripples occur below the hydraulic smooth to rough transition of movable beds. Sedimentology, 64 (5), (pp. 1381-1401) (21 p.).

Kleinhans, Maarten G., Van Der Vegt, Maarten, Leuven, Jasper, Braat, Lisanne, Markies, Henk, Simmelink, Arjan, Roosendaal, Chris, Van Eijk, Arjan, Vrijbergen, Paul & Van Maarseveen, Marcel (2017). Turning the tide – Comparison of tidal flow by periodic sea level fluctuation and by periodic bed tilting in scaled landscape experiments of estuaries. Earth Surface Dynamics, 5 (4), (pp. 731-756) (26 p.).

Leuven, J.R.F.W., Kleinhans, M.G., Weisscher, Steven & van der Vegt, M. (2016). Tidal sand bar dimensions and shapes in estuaries. Earth-Science Reviews, 161, (pp. 204-223) (20 p.).


Anne Baar (2019), Impact of small-scale transverse bed slope effects on large-scale morphology: Experimental and modelling studies, Utrecht Studies in Earth Sciences 174,

Lisanne Braat (2019), Morphodynamics and Sedimentology of Estuaries with Sand and Mud, Utrecht Studies in Earth Sciences 176,

Jasper Leuven (2019), Bar and channel patterns in estuaries, Utrecht Studies in Earth Sciences 180,

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Contact details

Maarten Kleinhans

General info

Duration: 10/2014 - 09/2019

Research Positions: 5