Focus 1: Reconstruction and pollution in the Rhine-Meuse basin


Western Europe in general, and the Rhine and Meuse delta in particular, have changed dramatically in the last centuries. In the past, this area consisted of natural wetlands with rivers that transported water freely from the land to the sea. Nowadays, land is intensively cultivated, heavily industrialized, densely populated, and consequently protected against flooding by dikes and dams. As a result of land use changes and high water levels, possibly enforced by climate changes in the future, the whole basin is under reconstruction. Dikes are raised and moved, summer and winter beds are excavated, obstacles are removed and emergency spillways are created. Reconstruction changes the flow of water and the level and type of the substrate altering the species composition and ecosystem functioning. Emissions of toxicants and nutrients from agriculture, industry and households cause pollution of water, sediment and air, leading to concentrations that affect plants, animals and man. Traditional pollutants are banned but new, largely unknown, chemicals are used and released instead.

slide21

Nijmegen is located at a narrow of the rivers Rhine and Meuse, between the large German and Belgian catchments areas and the Dutch delta.

slide31

As a consequence, problems throughout the whole basin are magnified in the vicinity of Nijmegen, giving good opportunities for research and education. Transitions between dry and wet, fresh and salt, pristine and heavily modified systems are nearby for detailed case studies. Students find a broad set of environmental, nature and water issues to learn from.