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Space for Adaptating the River Scheldt to Climate Change (LIFE SPARC)


Climate change is raising sea levels and increasing risks from extreme weather phenomena. The Scheldt estuary (Belgium) is highly vulnerable to flooding because of its open connection to the sea, its funnel-shape and surrounding low-lying land, especially when high tides coincide with heavy storm winds. The Scheldt is laden with sediment, so tidal marshes are systematically rising along with high waters. Consequently, the transition to the waterway is becoming steeper (coastal squeeze). The steep tidal marshes are being eroded by increased flow velocities in the waterway. As a result, protected freshwater mud flat and tidal marsh habitats, which are rare in Europe, are disappearing. These habitats also help provide important ecosystem services.

The LIFE SPARC project proposes measures to make the Scheldt estuary and its highly urbanised area resilient to climate change. In practice, this means providing much greater protection against floods by creating open space for water and developing a robust estuary ecosystem. More specifically, the project has the following goals:

  • Reducing flood risk using nature-based solutions appropriate to tidal rivers, in line with the EU Floods Directive, such as the construction of flood areas that can safely fill with water during flood events, decreasing water levels on the river and reducing the risk of flooding in urban areas;
  • Restoring habitats to make the ecosystem more resilient to the effects of climate change, and enabling tidal mud flats and freshwater tidal marshes to develop in line with the Habitats Directive. The aim is for the restored sites to form a network, to improve the implementation of the Habitats and Birds directives and to act as green infrastructure ('corridors') to give species greater opportunity for movement;
  • Reinforcing public support, by actively engaging stakeholders and the general public, and sharing knowledge. Opportunities in the field of recreation and tourism will also be taken to boost the local economy;
  • Demonstrating the transferability and replicability of new techniques for nature-based solutions appropriate to tidal rivers.

Project information


The Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB) of the Flemish government


Waterwegen en Zeekanaal NV, Belgium; Eigen Vermogen Flanders Hydraulics, Belgium; Regionaal Landschap Schelde-Durme, Belgium

Source of funding

LIFE Programme

Published in Climate-ADAPT Dec 10 2018   -   Last Modified in Climate-ADAPT Dec 12 2023

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