From an ecological point of view, the Scheldt estuary is a quite unique estuary. The high dynamics (with a tidal difference up to 6m), the presence of a full gradient from fresh to salt water (including a 60km freshwater tidal area) and its typical fauna and flora, make the Scheldt estuary to an exceptional system within Europe. The intense use of the Scheldt estuary however leads to severe pollution, eutrophication and morphological changes. Consequently, the condition of habitats and species, and therefore of the entire ecosystem, has strongly deteriorated. Both the Netherlands and Belgium have committed to counter this and to restore, further develop and protect nature. The measures taken are included in the projects of the ‘Sigma Plan’ (Flanders) and ‘Natuurpakket Westerschelde’ (the Netherlands) and also take into account economy, safety and recreation. Additionally, managers work towards sustainable use of the entire basin.
To gain insight into the ecological functioning of the estuarine system, not only monitoring of fauna and flora but also of their mutual interactions (trophic interactions) and their connection to other physical and biochemical parameters influencing the ecological system, is of utmost importance. Meaningful parameters are amongst others light irradiation, pH, oxygen, temperature and nutrients. Insights in the ecological functioning can be important to link an intervention or change in the estuary with the functioning of the ecosystem or to predict the effects of the measures on the ecosystem.