Long-term developments in ecological rehabilitation of the main distributaries in the Rhine delta: fish and macroinvertebrates

  • A. bij de Vaate
  • R. Breukel
  • G. van der Velde
Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 187)


Significant anthropogenic pressure in the Dutch part of the River Rhine is present from the 12th century. River engineering and water pollution were the main stress factors for flora and fauna. From the middle of the 20th century measures were taken to reduce water pollution. Recently, from 1987 onwards, these activities were put into a wider context of ecological river rehabilitation. Effects of improvements on fish and macroinvertebrates in the main distributaries in the Rhine delta are reviewed. The conclusions are that (a) most of the alterations in the Rhine delta are irreversible due to hard socio-economic boundary conditions (e.g. safety, navigation); (b) chances for the development of riverine biotopes have therefore to be found in the forelands and not in the main channels of the Rhine delta; (c) further reduction of pollutants, especially thermal pollution, is needed to help original species to colonise the Rhine delta again; (d) nonindigenous species clearly leave a mark on recolonisation possibilities of original species.

Key words

water quality river engineering non-indigenous species exotic species 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Admiraal, W., G. van der Velde, H. Smit & W. G. Cazemier, 1993. The rivers Rhine and Meuse in The Netherlands: present state and signs of ecological recovery. Hydrobiologia 265: 97–128.Google Scholar
  2. Alink, G. M., E. M. H. Frederix-Wolters, M. A. van der Gaag, J. F. J. van der Kerkhoff & C. L. M. Poels, 1980. Induction of sister-chromatid exchanges in fish exposed to Rhine water. Mutation Research 78: 369–374.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Anonymous, 1998. Vierde nota waterhuishouding. Regeringsbeslissing. Ministerie vanVerkeer enWaterstaat, ′s Gravenhage (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  4. Anonymous, 2001. Beheersplan voor de Rijkswateren. Programma voor het beheer in de periode 2001-2004. Report Ministerie voor Verkeer & Waterstaat, ′s Gravenhage (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  5. Beurskens, J. E. M., G. A. J. Mol, H. L. Barreveld, B. van Munster & H. J. Winkels, 1993. Geochronology of priority pollutants in a sedimentation area of the Rhine River. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry 12: 1549–1566.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bij de Vaate, A., 1994. Long-term changes in the macroinvertebrate fauna of the River IJssel, The Netherlands. Verhandlungen der Internationale Vereinigung fü r theoretische und angewandte Limnologie 25: 1563–1567.Google Scholar
  7. Bij de Vaate, A., 2003. Degradation and recovery of the freshwater fauna in the lower sections of the rivers Rhine and Meuse. Ph.D. thesis Wageningen University, Wageningen.Google Scholar
  8. Bij de Vaate, A., A. Klink & F. Oosterbroek, 1992. The mayfly, Ephoron virgo (Olivier), back in the Dutch parts of the rivers Rhine and Meuse. Hydrobiological Bulletin 25: 237–240.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bij de Vaate, A., K. Jazdzewski, H. Ketelaars, S. Gollasch & G. van der Velde, 2002. Geographical patterns in range extension of macroinvertebrate Ponto-Caspian species in Europe. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 59: 1159–1174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Boon, P. J., P. Calow & G. E. Petts, 1992. River Conservation and Management. John Wiley, Chichester.Google Scholar
  11. Buijse, A. D., H. Coops, M. Staras, L. H. Jans, G. J. van Geest, R. E. Grift, B. W. Ibelings, W. Oosterberg & F. C. J. M. Roozen, 2002. Restoration strategies for river-floodplains along large lowland rivers in Europe. Freshwater Biology 47: 889–907.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Buijse, A. D., F. Klijn, R. S. E. W. Leuven, H. Middelkoop, F. Schiermer, J. Thorp & H. Wolfert, 2005. Rehabilitation of large rivers: references, achievements and integration into river management. Archiv fü r Hydrobiologie, Supplement 155, Large Rivers 15: 715–738.Google Scholar
  13. Cals, M. J. R., R. Postma & E. C. L. Marteijn, 1996. Ecological river restoration in The Netherlands: state of the art and strategies for the future. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 8: 61–70.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Chardon, J. P., R. P. B. Foppen & N. Geilen, 2000. LACRHRIVER: a method to assess the functioning of rivers as ecological networks. European Water Management 3: 35–43.Google Scholar
  15. De Bruin, D., D. Hamhuis, L. van Nieuwenhuijze, W. Overmars, D. Sijmons & F. Vera, 1987. Ooievaar: de toekomst van het rivierengebied. Report Stichting Gelderse Milieufederatie, Arnhem (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  16. De Jong, J. & A. bij de Vaate, 1989. Dams and the environment. The Zuiderzee damming. Bulletin International Commission on Large Dams 66: 1–85.Google Scholar
  17. De Kruijf, H. A. M., 1982. Progress in the application of the convention against the chemical pollution of the River Rhine. Toxicological and Environmental Chemistry 6: 41–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Nie, H., 1997. Atlas van de Nederlandse zoetwatervissen. Media Publishing, Doetinchem (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  19. Den Hartog, C., F. B. W. van den Brink & G. van der Velde, 1989. Brackish-water invaders in the River Rhine. A bioindication for increased salinity level over the years. Naturwissenschaften 76: 80–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dick, J. T. A. & D. Platvoet, 2000. Invading predatory crustacean Dikerogammarus villosus eliminates both native and exotic species. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B Biology 267: 977–983.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dieperink, C., 1997. Tussen zout en zalm. Lessen uit de ontwikkeling van het regime inzake de Rijnvervuiling. Ph.D. thesis, University Utrecht, Utrecht (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  22. Driessen, A. M. A. J., 1994. Watersnood tussen Maas en Waal. Overstromingsrampen in het rivierengebied tussen 1780 en 1810. Walburg Pers, Zutphen (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  23. Foppen, R. P. B. & R. Reijnen, 1998. Ecological networks in riparian systems: Examples for Dutch floodplain rivers. In Nienhuis, P. H., R. S. E. W. Leuven & A. M. J. Ragas (eds), New Concepts for Sustainable Management of River Basins. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, 85–93.Google Scholar
  24. Galat, D. L., L. H. Fredrickson, D. D. Humburg, K. J. Bataille, J. R. Bodie, J. Dohrenwend, G. T. Gelwicks, J. E. Havel, D. L. Helmers, J. B. Hooker, J. R. Jones, M. F. Knowlton, J. Kubisiak, J. Mazourek, A. C. McColpin, R. B. Renken & R. D. Semlitsch, 1998. Flooding to restore connectivity of regulated, large-river wetlands. BioScience 48: 721–733.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gore, J. A. & F. D. Shields Jr., 1995. Can large rivers be restored? BioScience 45: 142–152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Goudsmits, K., 1998. De rivierrombout (Gomphus flavipes) terug in Nederland. Nieuwsbrief Nederlandse Vereniging voor Libellenstudie 2(3): 2 (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  27. Grift, R. E., 2001. How fish benefit from floodplain restoration along the lower River Rhine. Ph.D. thesis Wageningen University, Wageningen.Google Scholar
  28. Habraken, J. M. P. M. & B. H. J. M. Crombaghs, 1997. Een vondst van de rivierrombout (Gomphus flavipes (Carpentier)) langs de Waal. Brachytron 1(1): 3–5 (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  29. Heiler, G., T. Hein, F. Schiemer & G. Bornette, 1995. Hydrological connectivity and flood pulses as the central aspects for the integrity of a river-floodplain system. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management 11: 351–361.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Hellawell, J. M., 1989. Biological Indicators of Freshwater Pollution and Environmental Management. Elsevier, London.Google Scholar
  31. Hendriks, A. J., J. L. Maas-Diepeveen, A. Noordsij & M. A. van der Gaag, 1994. Monitoring response of XAD-concentrated water in the Rhine delta: a major part of the toxic compounds remains unidentified. Water Research 28: 581–598.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Heymen, R. & M. van der Weijden, 1991. Resultaten van waterkwaliteitsonderzoek in de Rijn in Nederland. Report 91.047, Institute for Inland Water Management & Waste Water Treatment, Lelystad (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  33. ICPR, 1998. Bestandsaufnahme der ö kologisch wertvollen Gebiete am Rhein und erste Schritte auf dem Weg zum Biotopverbund. Report International Commission for Protection of the Rhine against Pollution (ICPR), Koblenz (in German).Google Scholar
  34. Kalweit, H. (eds), 1993. Der Rhein unter der Einwirkung des Menschen: Ausbau Schiffahrt, Wasserwirtschaft. International Commission for Hydrology of the River Rhine, Lelystad (in German).Google Scholar
  35. Klinge, M., A. D. Buijse, W. G. Cazemier, E. H. R. R. Lammens & K. H. Prins, 1998. Biologische monitoring zoete rijkswateren: vis in de zoete rijkswateren, 1992-1996. Report 98.017. Institute for Inland Water Management & Waste Water Treatment, Lelystad (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  36. Klink, A., 1989. The Lower Rhine: palaeoecological analysis. In Petts G. E. (ed.), Historical Change of Large Alluvial Rivers: Western Europe. John Wiley, Chichester, 183–201.Google Scholar
  37. Lauterborn, R., 1918. Die geographische und biologische Gliederung des Rheinstroms III. Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften. Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Klasse 9: 1–87.Google Scholar
  38. Lelek, A., 1989. The Rhine River and some of its tributaries under human impact in the last two centuries. In Dodge, D.P. (ed.), Proc. Intern. Large River Symposium. Canadian Special Publication of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 106: 469–487.Google Scholar
  39. Leuven, R. S. E. W., J. L. M. Haans, A. J. Hendriks, R. A. C. Lock & S. E. Wendelaar Bonga, 1998. Assessing cumulative impacts of multiple stressors on river systems. In Nienhuis, P. H., R. S. E. W. Leuven & A. M. J. Ragas (eds), New Concepts for Sustainable Management of River Basins. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 241–260.Google Scholar
  40. Lobregt, P. & J. van Os, 1977. De laatste Riviervissers. De Walburg Pers, Zutphen (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  41. Middelkoop, H., 1997. Embanked floodplains in the Netherlands: geomorphological evolution over various time scales. Nederlandse Geografische Studies 224: 1–341.Google Scholar
  42. Middelkoop, H. (eds), 1998. Twee rivieren. Rijn en Maas in Nederland. Report 98.041 Institute for Inland Water Management & Waste Water Treatment, Arnhem (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  43. Molt, E.L., 1961. Pollution of the River Rhine water. In Anonymous, The River Rhine. Report Technical University Delft, Delft (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  44. Nienhuis, P. H., A. D Buijse, R. S. E. W. Leuven, A. J. M. Smits, R. J. W. de Nooij & E. M. Samborska, 2002. Ecological rehabilitation of the lowland basin of the River Rhine (NW Europe). Hydrobiologia 478: 241–260.Google Scholar
  45. Nienhuis, P. H. & R. S. E. W. Leuven, 1998. Ecological concepts for the sustainable management of lowland river basins: a review. In Nienhuis P. H., R. S. E. W. Leuven & A. M. J. Ragas (eds), New Concepts for Sustainable Management of River Basins. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 7–33.Google Scholar
  46. Nienhuis, P. H. & R. S. E. W. Leuven, 2001. River restoration and flood protection: controversy or synergism? Hydrobiologia 444: 85–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Nolan, D. T., R. H. Hadderingh, F. A. T. Spanings, H. A. Jenner & S. E. Wendelaar Bonga, 2000. Acute temperature elevation in tap and Rhine water affects skin and gill epithelia, hydromineral balance, and gill Na+/K+-ATPase activity of brown trout (Salmo trutta) smolts. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 57: 708–718.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Nolan, D. T., R. H. Hadderingh, H. A. Jenner & S. E. Wendelaar Bonga, 1998. The effects of exposure to Rhine water on sea trout smolt (Salmo trutta trutta L.): an ultrastructural and physiological study. In Nienhuis, P. H., R. S. E. W. Leuven & A. M. J. Ragas (eds), New Concepts for Sustainable Management of River Basins. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 261–271.Google Scholar
  49. Oosterbroek, F. M. J., 1990. Drie jaar monitoring van de visstand in de Waal bij de EPON-centrale te Nijmegen. Report 287, Catholic University, Nijmegen, Department of Aquatic Ecology & Biogeology (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  50. Pedroli, G. B. M. & R. Postma, 1998. Nature rehabilitation in European river ecosystems: three cases. In Nienhuis, P.H., R.S.E.W. Leuven & A.M.J. Ragas (eds), New Concepts for Sustainable Management of River Basins. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden: 67–84.Google Scholar
  51. Poels, C. L. M., M. A. van der Gaag & J. F. J. van de Kerkhoff, 1980. An investigation into the long-term effects of Rhine water on rainbow trout. Water Research 14: 1029–1035.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Rajagopal, S., G. van der Velde, B. G. P. Paffen & A. bij de Vaate, 1999. Population densities, biomass, growth and production of Corophium curvispinum G.O. Sars (Amphipoda) in the Lower Rhine. In Schram, F. R. & J. C. von Vaupel Klein (eds), Crustaceans and the Biodiversity Crisis: Proceedings 4th international Crustacean Congress. Vol. 1, Brill, Leiden: 457–472.Google Scholar
  53. Schiemer, F., 1999. Conservation of biodiversity in floodplain rivers. Archiv fü r Hydrobiologie Supplement 115: 423–438.Google Scholar
  54. Schropp, M. H. I. & C. Bakker, 1998. Secondary channels as a basis for the ecological rehabilitation of Dutch rivers. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems 8: 53–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Simons, H. E. J., C. Bakker, M. H. I. Schropp, L. H. Jans, F. R. Kok & R. E. Grift, 2001. Man-made secondary channels along the River Rhine (The Netherlands); results of postproject monitoring. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management 17: 473–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Slooff, W., 1982. Skeletal anomalies in fish from polluted surface waters. Aquatic Toxicology 2: 157–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Slooff, W., 1983a. Study on the use of feral fish as indicators for the presence of chemical carcinogens in Dutch surface waters. Aquatic Toxicology 3: 127–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Slooff, W., 1983b. Rijn-, Lek-, Waal-en IJsseluiterwaarden onder invloed van ingrepen en verontreinigingen. In Hekstra G. P. & W. Joenje (eds), Rijnwater in Nederland. Ecologische kring, Arnhem, 13–31.Google Scholar
  59. Slooff, W., D. de Zwart & J. F. J. van de Kerkhoff, 1983. Monitoring the rivers Rhine and Meuse in The Netherlands for toxicity. Aquatic Toxicology 4: 189–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Smit, H., G. van der Velde, R. G. Smits & H. Coops, 1997. Ecosystem developments in the Rhine-Meuse delta during two decades after enclosure and steps towards estuary restoration. Estuaries 20: 504–520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sparks, R. E., 1995. Need for ecosystem management of large rivers and their floodplains. BioScience 45: 168–182.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Tittizer, T. & F. Krebs (eds), 1996. ökosystemforschung: der Rhein und seine Auen, eine Bilanz. Springer Verlag, Berlin (in German).Google Scholar
  63. Van den Brink, F. W. B., G. van der Velde & W. G. Cazemier, 1990. The faunistic composition of the freshwater section of the River Rhine in The Netherlands: present state and changes since 1900. In Kinzelbach, R. & G. Friedrich (eds), Biologie des Rheins. Vol. 1, Limnologie aktuell: 191–216.Google Scholar
  64. Van den Brink, F. W. B., G. van der Velde & A. bij de Vaate, 1991. Amphipod invasion on the Rhine. Nature 352: 576.Google Scholar
  65. Van den Brink, F. W. B., G. van der Velde & A. bij de Vaate, 1993. Ecological aspects, explosive range extension and impact of a mass invader, Corophium curvispinum Sars, 1895 (Crustacea: Amphipoda), in the Lower Rhine (The Netherlands). Oecologia 93: 224–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Van der Gaag, M. A., 1987. Tests for growth retardation and pathology in fishes exposed to complex mixtures: Experiences on polluted river water. In Vouk V. B., G. C. Butler, A. C. Upton, D. C. Parke & S. C. Asher (eds), Methods for Assessing the Effects of Mixtures of Chemicals. Wiley, Chichester: 775–796.Google Scholar
  67. Van der Klei, W., R. H. Dekker, H. Kersten & J. A. W. de Wit, 1991. Water management of the River Rhine: past, present and future. Journal European Water Pollution Control Federation 1: 9–18.Google Scholar
  68. Van der Velde, G., G. van Urk, F. W. B. van den Brink, F. Colijn, W. A. Bruggeman & R. S. E. W Leuven, 1991. Rein Rijnwater, een sleutelfactor in chemisch oecosysteemherstel. In Hekstra, G. P. & F. J. M. van der Linden (eds), Flora en fauna chemisch onder druk. Pudoc, Wageningen: 231–266 (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  69. Van der Velde, G., F. W. B. van den Brink, B. G. P. Paffen, A. bij de Vaate & H. A. Jenner, 1994. Decline of zebra mussel populations in the Rhine: competition between two mass invaders (Dreissena polymorpha and Corophium curvispinum). Naturwissenschaften 81: 32–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Van der Velde, G. & R. S. E. W. Leuven, 1999. Polluted river systems: monitoring and assessment of ecotoxicological risks. Acta Hydrochimica et Hydrobiologica 27: 251–256.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Van der Velde, G., I. Nagelkerken, S. Rajagopal & A. bij de Vaate, 2002. Invasions by alien species in inland freshwater bodies in Western Europe: the Rhine delta. In Leppä koski, E., S. Gollasch & S. Olenin (ed) Aquatic Invasive Species of Europe. Distribution, Impacts and Management. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht: 360–372.Google Scholar
  72. Van der Ven, G.P. (ed.), 1996. Man-made Lowlands. History of Water Management and land reclamation in The Netherlands. Stichting Matrijs Utrecht.Google Scholar
  73. Van der Weijden, C. H. & J. J. Middelburg, 1989. Hydrogeochemistry of the River Rhine: long-term and seasonal variability, elemental budgets, base levels and pollution. Water Research 23: 1247–1266.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Van Dijk, G. M., E. C. L. Marteijn & A. Schulte-Wü lwer-Leidig, 1995. Ecological rehabilitation of the River Rhine: plans, progress and perspectives. Regulated Rivers: Research & Management 11: 377–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Van Drimmelen, D. E., 1987. Schets van de Nederlandse rivieren binnenvisserij tot het midden van de 20ste eeuw. Organisatie ter Verbetering van de Binnenvisserij, Nieuwegein (in Dutch).Google Scholar
  76. Van Urk, G., 1981. Changes in the macroinvertebrate fauna of the River IJssel. H2O 14: 494–499.Google Scholar
  77. Van Urk, G., 1984. Lower Rhine-Meuse. In Whitton, B. A. (ed.), Ecology of European Rivers. Blackwell, Oxford: 291–315.Google Scholar
  78. Van Urk, G. & F. C. M. Kerkum, 1986. Misvormingen bij muggelarven uit Nederlandse oppervlaktewateren. H2O 19: 624–627 (in Dutch with English summary).Google Scholar
  79. Van Urk, G. & F. C. M. Kerkum, 1987. Chironomid mortality after the Sandoz accident and deformities in Chironomus larvae due to sediment pollution in the Rhine. Aqua 4: 191–196.Google Scholar
  80. Van Urk, G. & H. Smit, 1989. The Lower Rhine: geomorphological changes. In Petts, G. E. (ed.), Historical Changes of Large Alluvial Rivers: Western Europe. Wiley & Sons, Chichester: 167–182.Google Scholar
  81. Van Urk, G. & A. bij de Vaate, 1990. Ecological studies in the Lower Rhine in The Netherlands. In Kinzelbach, R. & G. Friedrich (eds), Biologie des Rheins. Vol. 1, Limnologie Aktuell: 131–145.Google Scholar
  82. Van Urk, G., F. Kerkum & A. bij de Vaate, 1993. Insects and insecticides in the Lower Rhine. Water Research 27: 205–213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Wessels, H. R. A., 1984. Water temperature of the River Rhine, 1911-1984. H2O 17(18): 396–399.Google Scholar
  84. WWF., 1992. Living Rivers. World Wide Fund for Nature, Zeist.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer2006 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. bij de Vaate
    • 1
    • 3
  • R. Breukel
    • 1
    • 3
  • G. van der Velde
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute for Inland Water Management and Waste Water Treatment (RIZA)The Netherlands
  2. 2.Department of Animal Ecology and EcophysiologyInstitute for Wetland and Water Research, Radboud University NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Participant of the Netherlands Centre for River Studies (NCR)DelftThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations