Translator Disclaimer
1 March 2008 Potential Implications of Sea-Level Rise for Belgium
Luc Lebbe, Nathalie Van Meir, Peter Viaene
Author Affiliations +

The Belgian coastal plain and the Schelde estuary are threatened by sea-level rise. While of great economic importance with a threatened population of some 0.8 million (of a total population of 10 million), assessments of these risks are limited. This article describes the physical characteristics of the coast and undertakes a qualitative interpretation of its vulnerability. Low-lying polders are the most vulnerable to sea-level rise where a major problem is water drainage during rainy periods; their varying vulnerability to sea-level rise and increase in rain intensity is assessed, including the relationship between drainage levels and saltwater seepage. Freshwater lenses developed within the dunes are also vulnerable to sea-level rise, leading to threats to drinking water supplies from saltwater intrusion. Belgian coastal defence structures and their effectiveness are discussed. Historical sea-level rise during the past century, wave and wind data, and the evolution of erosion and accretion along the coast are interpreted. For Antwerpen, a harbour city on the river Schelde, the effects of sea-level rise are far from clear. Included here are historical data on changes in tidal amplitude during the 20th century. Future research needs should focus on the quantitative interpretation of data to understand the effect of sea-level rise on beach erosion, flood risk, and fresh and salt groundwater distribution. Furthermore, a thorough socio-economic study should be undertaken to assess the vulnerability of the Belgian coast and the Schelde estuary.

Luc Lebbe, Nathalie Van Meir, and Peter Viaene "Potential Implications of Sea-Level Rise for Belgium," Journal of Coastal Research 2008(242), 358-366, (1 March 2008).
Received: 19 April 2007; Accepted: 19 April 2007; Published: 1 March 2008

Belgian coastal plain
coastal defences
gravitational and artificial water drainage
Saltwater intrusion
Get copyright permission
Back to Top