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E2) Floodplain ecosystem services

Start: 09/2014
End: 09/2018
Status: Active

Contact details

Remon Koopman

Radboud University Nijmegen

Download here the summary poster and the PhD thesis related to this project.

Snapshopts of the fish sampling activities, a side channel location along a Dutch floodplain and mass mortality of a mollusc community in a riverine habitat.

Project output

Approaches to quantify the ecosystem services from riverine vegetation and aquatic habitats.


River systems are amongst the more dynamic landscapes due to their natural dynamics but also due to the many river interventions and land use changes. Management strategies can be more sustainable when considering the multiple river functions. This is the case of recent interventions in the Dutch rivers such as the side channels that aimed at improving flood safety while increasing the riverine vegetation and habitats for aquatic species. However, the effects of these inteventions on space and time over the ecosystem services are hardly assessed due to limited tools or available methods. Hence, this project focused on developing approaches to quantify the spatiotemporal availability of 3 types of ecosystem services: riverine vegetation for biomass production, sport fishing and water purification by mussels.

Key goals: Integrated management

Overview of innovative components.

Innovative components

Based on a literature review for suitable landscape classifications, we quantify the following floodplain ecosystem services along the distributaries of the Dutch Rhine river (see right Figure):

  • At delta scale along the main tributaries of the Dutch Rhine, we looked at the growth of woody and non-woody riverine vegetation due to the river interventions and corresponding land use changes over a period of 15 years.
  • Using data of multiple fish sampling in a location along the Waal river, we compared the presence of juvenile fish in various water bodies within natural environments such as (1) floodplain lakes, (2) water bodies created by traditional interventions such as groyne fields and (3) side channels as well as (4) shore channels next to novel interventions such as the longitudinal dams.
  • Field monitoring of an impounded area along a groyne field in the Maas river as well as a 3D model of the groyne field that was derived from drone imagery proved useful to estimate the effect of a low water level event in the capacity of water purification by mussels.
  • Using a database with monitoring data in an impounded and free flowing locations along the Dutch Rhine, we accounted for the presence of molluscs at the maximum flow velocities induced by shipping activities.

For whom and where?

Managers and advisors on ecology and water quality at locations that need to estimate the ecosystem services due to river intereventions such the ones implemented in the Netherlands.

Data-collection methods: Field survey measurements Historical approach Process-based modeling Systematic review

Temporal scale: 1-10years Seasonal measurements

Application development & findings

The available landscape ecological maps from the Dutch Ministry of infrastructure were the basis to quantify the changes in the riverine vegetation from 1997 to 2012. Most of the riverine vegetation over the main tributaries of the Dutch Rhine is non-woody (i.e. grass/hay, reed and agricultural crops). However, while the non-woody vegetation decreased, the non-woody vegetation remained relatively constant. As a result, the overall vegetation for biomass production decreased while flood safety increased visualizing a potential trade-off.

Moreover, in December 2016, the damaging of a weir near a groyne location along the Meuse river caused a water level decrease that left the groynes dry for 12 days during harsh winter conditions. The event resulted in 100% mortality on the air-exposed groynes and a complete loss of their water purification services. In addition, flow velocity measurements in three habitat types showed that the highest impact on mollusc communities occurred in groyne fields of impounded and free-flowing rivers while cargo ships produced the highest flow velocities.

Finally, the fish sampling at the monitored locations showed that floodplain lakes and the shore channel behind the longitudinal dams contributed considerably to the presence of juvenile fish. Therefore, new interventions such as the longitudinal dams allowed shipping in the main channel while protecting aquatic habitats in the shore channel against shipping effects.

Status for day-to-day practice

The quantification of the ecosystem services at the example locations can inspire other locations to design river interventions towards certain target thresholds or ecosystem services trade-offs.

Areas studied covered a delta scale along the three main tributaries along the Dutch Rhine (Waal, IJssel and Lek-Nederrijn) and field monitoring locations along the Waal and Maas river.

Spatial scale: River section

Key locations: IJssel River (NL) Maas River (NL) Nederrijn-Lek River (NL) Rhine River (NL) Waal River (NL)

Next steps

Cost-benefit analysis of the river ecosystem services could provide a next step to define thresholds or targets for specific habitats during the design of river interventions. However, the inter-relations between ecosystem services and its societal value should be also taken into account.


Last updated: 10/02/2020

Explore the contact details to get to know more about the researchers, the supervisory team and the organizations that contribute to this project.

Main researcher

Remon Koopman

Radboud University Nijmegen

Supervisory team

dr. ir. Denie Augustijn

University of Twente

Rob Lenders

Radboud University Nijmegen

Prof. dr. Ton Breure

National Institute for Public Health and the Enviroment. Minsty of Health, Welfare and Sport.

Contributing partners

As soon as available, explore the storyline to get to know more about the main methods or prototype tools that were developed within this project.

Biomass growth of floodplain vegetation along the Dutch Rhine

Changes in the biomass growth between 1997 and 2012 to plan vegetation management strategies.

Remon Koopman

Radboud University Nijmegen

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Explore the output details for available publications to get a glance of the innovative components and implications to practice as well as the links to supporting datasets.

Project outputs

Predicting effects of ship-induced changes in flow velocity on native and alien molluscs in the littoral zone of lowland rivers

Shipping increases local flow velocities thereby potentially decreasing species richness of freshwater mussels and snails which in turn affects ecosystem functioning and services.

12/11/2018 by Remon Koopman et al.

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Contains: Publication open access

Suitable landscape classification systems for quantifying spatiotemporal development of riverine ecosystem services

17/10/2017 by Remon Koopman et al.

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Quantifying biomass production for assessing ecosystem services of riverine landscapes

An approach for quantifying the changes in the biomass growth over the Dutch Rhine tributaries due to the river interventions and floodplain vegetation management between the years 1997 and 2012.

01/05/2018 by Remon Koopman et al.

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Take a look to the dissemination efforts and application experiences which are available in the news items and blogs.



PlanSmart + RiverCare = Smart River Symposium

In order to exchange experiences between the two projects, researchers of the German PlanSmart project and the Dutch RiverCare project, as well as invited guests met on the 19th and 20th of June 2018 in Hannover.

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Dutch serie “Vroege Vogels” (Early birds) about nature and ecology in the Netherlands

07/11/2017 by Remon Koopman

During the 2017 summer and autumn a fish monitoring campaign was performed by RiverCare  and experts from Bureau Waardenburg.

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Rivercare floodplain


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