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Floodplain restoration and rewilding for local risk reduction

Netherlands Gelderse poort near the city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands

The restoration of the Gelderse poort allowed for the rehabilitation of a key delta ecosystem while also allowing for increased flood defenses for nearby communities.

Nature-based Intervention:

This project represents a restored floodplain of around 5000 ha located at the top of a delta. This intervention was a a collaboration between companies excavating clay from the riverbed and NGOs. As the clay was extracted the NGOs would remove fences from the area and implemented naturalistic grazing regimes. Other areas were acquired and added to these excavated plots in order to create greater interlinkages within the rewilded area. Dams were removed and 50 houses and 10 farms were relocated to allow for natural flow dynamics. Free-roaming horses and Galloway cattle were added to the landscape to facilitate the naturalistic grazing regimes. The project also helped reintroduce key species to the landscape such as beaver (Castor fiber), otter (Lutra lutra), and sturgeon (Acipenser sturio).

Overview of context and outcomes:

This region is highly prone to flooding and is located near the city of Nijmegen. The project started in the early 1990s and slowly grew over time, until having the management handed over to the government in 2009. The project continues to be run under a naturalistic rewilding strategy. The area has also become a popular recreation area with the site reportedly having over 1 million visitors a year.

Case effectiveness on

Climate change

Mitigation: Not reported
Adaptation: Positive

Due to its location at the top of a delta, increasing the water storage capacity of the floodplain was a critical step in reducing the effects of the flooding downstream. The success of the restored floodplain and river system has reportedly allowed the local community to decrease its flood defense spending.

Ecosystem health

Ecological effect: Positive

The intervention has reportedly helped increase habitat connectivity, quality, and diversity. Through letting the river naturally regenerate unique dune ecosystems have formed creating a 5 km long water gradient through the system. Alongside the beaver, otter and sturgeon that were introduced, it is reported that many other riparian species have made a comeback.

Socioeconomic outcomes

The rewilded site has reportedly caused a 10-fold increase in tourist traffic to the area. This has supported the local economy with tourist revenue flowing to local hotels and restaurants, while the site has simultaneously reduced local government spending on flood defenses. Community education programs have also been developed at the site with field seminars being conducted for more than 25,000 schoolchildren.


In 2009, after the completion of the land allocation and restoration process, the governance of the site was passed from ARK Nature and the river management authorities to the State Forest Service, who continues the manage the site today.


The inital pilot of the project was funded by WWF Netherlands and the ARK Nature foundation. Additional land procurement was funded in partnership by brick-making companies and WWF Netherlands. There was additional support and capacity provided by the Dutch Department of Waterways and Public Works.

Monitoring and evaluation

There are no clearly reported monitoring protocols currently identified.

Trade-offs and limitations

The restoration facilitated the regeneration of a riverine forest, which when paired with the sand dunes, hampered the overall flow of the river. Rather than chop down the trees the managers decided to widen river channels to facilitate the return of flow. The land conversion did cause the loss of 30 agricultural jobs, but the restored landscape supports over 200 new jobs.

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A floodplain in the Netherlands
Photo © Ries Bosch

Intervention type

  • Restoration
Conducted at landscape scale

Ecosystem type

  • Deltas & estuaries

Climate change impacts addressed

  • Freshwater flooding


  • State/district/local government agency
  • Local NGO or CBO (eg. indigenous)
  • National conservation/environment organisation

Societal challenges

  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Climate change mitigation
  • Disaster risk reduction
  • Economic and Social development


  • Food security: Not reported
  • Water security: Not reported
  • Health: Not reported
  • Local economics: Positive
  • Livelihoods/goods/basic needs: Not reported
  • Energy security: Not reported
  • Disaster risk reduction: Positive
  • Rights/empowerment/equality: Not reported
  • Conflict and security: Not reported
  • No. developmental outcomes reported: 3


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Literature info

  • Grey literature
  • Peer reviewed
Case methodology not reported