Project part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund)

The Interreg IVB North Sea Region Programme

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Analysis of the TIDE Estuarine Conflict Matrices

7c. Conflict Management


As described earlier, the requirements for conservation protection in many estuaries raise a number of management conflicts with other uses, including the ports industry, flood protection requirements and recreational access to the estuary and vice versa. As such, mechanisms are necessary to assist in stakeholder inclusion and conflict resolution as part of a wider integrative management strategy. A pilot study (Ratter & Weig, 2012) was undertaken within TIDE project on the Elbe to investigate how the general public perceive issues associated with management of estuaries.

The study involved the interviewing of residents living along the Elbe Estuary regarding their main concerns and priorities. The outcomes of the process were that nature conservation provision had the most serious potential for conflict with other uses, as residents perceived nature conservation to be incompatible with other land uses.

In the rural parts of the Elbe region, nature conservation and agriculture were perceived to be the main conflict uses, whilst in the more developed areas of the system, it was nature conservation and industry interactions that were identified as having the greatest potential conflict. However, these responses mostly reflect general opinions about the interaction of different land uses and do not refer to existing regional conflicts. These Elbe-specific findings are consistent with those identified by the RWGs when developing the conflict matrices for each estuary and would be considered broadly transferable to other similar estuaries.

As such, whilst again a typology of conflict interactions is clearly identifiable, estuary-specific surveys of stakeholder issues might be a useful tool to confirm key areas of conflict, and incorporate local variations in terms of both spatial and sectoral severity, thus delivering management assistance to key areas of requirement.


The analysis process has identified a series of high level conflict interactions between Natura 2000 requirements and the ports industry and related requirements such as the maintenance of navigation routes (and vice versa), albeit with issues relating to navigation considerably reduced for the Humber (see above).

The reduced conflict scenario between Natura 2000 requirements and navigation related activity on the Humber is considered primarily to be a result of the positioning of the main Humber ports industry towards the mouth of the estuary, particularly when compared to the other TIDE estuaries where the main port activity is located some distance upstream, requiring ongoing management measures to maintain safe navigation. However, the recent development of a dredging strategy for the Humber in the context of requirements under the Habitat Regulations Assessment is considered to have assisted in the reduction of conflict potential, with the strategy developed by the ports authority in conjunction with statutory agencies charged with environmental protection.

Whilst the Humber provides a good example of sectoral-based management development, the conflict process identified a high number of high scoring conflict issues, within the estuary, as well as on the Elbe and Weser particularly in the context of those derived for the Scheldt estuary. The Scheldt, whilst having some very high level conflicts present, primarily between navigation requirements and Natura 2000 protection needs, in general featured a reduced number of conflict areas and an increased number of synergistic activities.

Of course this lower scoring may be to some extent an artefact of the RWG assessment process, and the successful application of management actions have not been specifically identified from the review of legislation and SWOT analysis (Boyes et al., 2013). However, based on the outcomes of the analysis process, it is possible to conclude that management on the Scheldt appears to be effective in a number of areas. This reduction in the level of conflicts and indeed the relatively high level of synergistic interactions may be a result of its relatively long period of integrated management arising from the ´Long term vision Westerscheldt´ plan, integrating ´safety accessibility and environment´ aspects, including requirements for trans-national action and data sharing between Belgium and the Netherlands.

Indeed, it may be that the need to establish a trans-national management approach, with associated co-ordination of monitoring and data provision, has meant that a more effective integrated management approach has been developed than for estuaries where such a requirement is unnecessary and a more sectoral and less integrated management approach can be developed.

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