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

5e. Estuary Conflict Matrix Analysis Summary

Whilst many north-west European estuarine management user issues are to some extent generic, there are estuary specific variations, both in the user interactions, and also their severity. Although the main foci of management will be in addressing user conflicts, it is important to emphasise that synergisms also exist between a number of uses and that these can be built upon to enhance the integrated management approach. These differences (antagonistic and synergistic) have been identified from the conflict matrices applied to the TIDE estuaries.

For instance, the main use/issue of importance identified from the Elbe RWG was in relation to Transport and Accessibility. The associated conflict matrices indicate that the main management problems are associated with the provision of safe navigation requirements from the estuary mouth to the port of Hamburg, with the most severely scored conflicts from this use occurring with requirements for the protection of Natura 2000 sites in the estuary. Similarly, the need to meet the requirements of the Natura 2000 Directives incurs a potentially high conflict on the need to maintain safe navigation along this part of the estuary.

Flood protection was identified as a key requirement by the Weser RWG, but transport and biodiversity (conservation protection) rated almost as highly. This reflects both the need to maintain deep navigable access to the port of Bremen, but with substantial issues related to Natura 2000 requirements and tidal range along the estuary. The highest rated of these conflict interactions related to the impacts of conservation protection in the subtidal zone on navigation requirements as well as the converse channel stabilisation needs for navigation purposes on Natura 2000 protection in the intertidal and subtidal zones. The need to provide flood protection was also recorded as conflicting with Natura 2000 protection in the intertidal zone.

The broad provision of ecological function and diversity was identified as being of greatest importance by the Scheldt RWG but closely followed by flood protection & assimilative capacity and transport & accessibility. However, whilst fewer severe conflict issues were identified for the Scheldt as a whole than for the other TIDE estuaries, specific issues were recorded in the outer estuary relating to conflicts between dredging needs and protection of the subtidal habitat, with high level conflicts increasing around the port of Antwerp to include Natura 2000 site protection on specific flood protection measures (managed realignment), port activity, industry, recreation and housing provision, as well as conflicts resulting from managed realignment on conservation protection in sites adjacent to the estuary and housing provision.  Notably, a number of positive synergisms between users were also identified, more than for the other TIDE estuaries.

The provision of flood protection & assimilative capacity and ecological function & diversity were ranked as most important headline uses for the Humber, with the provision of transport and accessibility scoring far lower than for the other TIDE estuaries. This reflects the somewhat different management priorities already in place on the Humber, with the region low lying and subject to relative sea-level rise, and whilst featuring the UK’s largest port activity, there being relatively little requirement to artificially maintain navigable channels through dredging and channel stabilisation. However, the matrix analysis identified many severe conflict scenarios, with Natura 2000 conservation protection, primarily in the intertidal zone, impacting on port activity, recreational access and flood protection provision, as well as recreational access impacts on intertidal conservation protection, the requirements of flood protection provision and port activity on Natura 2000 protection.

As such, whilst many management issues are generic across most north-west European estuaries, estuary and/or management zone specific ‘one size fits all’ management responses are often insufficient, with a number of user and location specific responses required, including the targeting of management resources, stakeholder engagement and decision-making transparency.

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