Past and future plant diversity of a coastal wetland driven by soil subsidence and climate change

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On the island of Ameland (The Netherlands), natural gas has been extracted from a dune and salt marsh natural area since 1986. This has caused a soil subsidence of c. 1–25 cm, which can be used as a model to infer effects of future sea level rise. The aims of our study were (a) to relate the changes in the vegetation, and more specifically, in plant diversity, during the extraction period to soil subsidence and weather fluctuations, and (b) to use these relations to predict future changes due to the combination of ongoing soil subsidence and climate change. We characterised climate change as increases in mean sea level, storm frequency and net precipitation. Simultaneous observations were made of vegetation composition, elevation, soil chemistry, net precipitation, groundwater level, and flooding frequency over the period 1986–2001. By using multiple regression the changes in the vegetation could be decomposed into (1) an oscillatory component due to fluctuations in net precipitation, (2) an oscillatory component due to incidental flooding, (3) a monotonous component due to soil subsidence, and (4) a monotonous component not related to any measured variable but probably due to eutrophication. The changes were generally small during the observation period, but the regression model predicts large changes by the year 2100 that are almost exclusively due to sea level rise. However, although sea level rise is expected to cause a loss of species, this does not necessarily lead to a loss of conservancy value
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)597-618
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • sea-level rise
  • sand dunes
  • netherlands
  • vegetation
  • deposition
  • poor


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