Nature based river management

The applied research conducted by the Nature Based River Management group focuses on the transition challenges associated with climate change and sustainable river and stream management. The group’s objective is for its research and teaching to contribute to the application of nature-based solutions (NBS) to create a climate-resilient and sustainable Dutch river delta.

This includes looking specifically at the natural adaptive capacity of river and stream systems, and designing sustainable nature-based solutions (NBS) as measures to mitigate the impacts and causes of climate change and other important societal challenges, such as biodiversity loss and environmental pollution. Both the positive and negative effects of NBS on issues such as water safety, nature, the environment, recreation, and social and economic conditions are important research topics within the applied research group. The research also looks at river basin systems in their entirety.

The applied research group covers the following research lines:

  • Theoretical development of Nature Based River Management (NBRM), placing it in the context of other approaches, and identification of preconditions for NBRM;
  • Multi- and transdisciplinary research into the potential of NBRM and NBS for rivers and streams: how well are existing NBS performing technically, and what are the socio-economic and ecological co-benefits and trade-offs? (see for example Van Loon-Steensma & Goldsworthy, 2022;
  • NBRM and NBS for sustainable water safety. How can NBRM and NBS be used to achieve the major reinforcement tasks earmarked for the Dutch river delta (e.g. meeting required water barrier standards by 2050), as well as to help set targets for biodiversity and sustainability, and possibly other targets related to issues such as quality of life, nitrogen, climate mitigation and drought.
  • The role of flora and fauna for NBRM and NBS (e.g. fish, birds, beavers, badgers, muskrats, grazing by horses or cattle, shrubs and trees in floodplains, etc.);

The aim is to develop guidelines for the application of NBRM and NBS to sustainability policy objectives.


  • Gain, A. et al. Overcoming Challenges for Implementing Nature-based Solutions in Deltaic Environments: insights from the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta in Bangladesh. Environmental Research Letters.
  • van den Hoven, K., Kroeze, C. and van Loon-Steensma, J.M., (2022). Characteristics of realigned dikes in coastal Europe: Overview and opportunities for nature-based flood protection. Ocean & Coastal Management, online first
  • Van Loon-Steensma, J.M. and Goldsworthy, C. (2022). Environmental Performance of Climate Adaptation Innovations. Ambio.
  • Marijnissen, R., Esselink, P., Kok, M., Kroeze, C. and Van Loon-Steensma, J.M. 2020. How natural processes contribute to flood protection - A sustainable adaptation scheme for a wide green dike. Science of the Total Environment journal.

J.M. Van Loon-Steensma - ‪Google Scholar

About the professor

Jantsje M. van Loon-Steensma graduated from Wageningen University in 1993 with a degree in Environmental Hygiene, specialising in Water Quality and Aquatic Ecology. She then worked on ecological projects for the Institute for Inland Water Management and Waste Water Treatment (RIZA) through a small consultancy, and served as secretary for the first Integrated Water Management Plan Groningen – Drenthe at the Groningen provincial authority. After a spell in Costa Rica, she joined Wageningen University’s Science Shop, supervising research projects based on issues raised by civil society organisations. She then moved to the Environmental Sciences Group at Wageningen University where her work included coordinating Wageningen UR’s climate research programme and the national Knowledge for Climate Research Programme. She researched a variety of innovative dike designs for the Wadden Region Delta Programme, and in 2014 she obtained a PhD on ‘Salt marshes for flood protection; long-term adaptation by combining functions in flood defences’. As an assistant professor, she then taught and conducted research in climate adaptation and nature-based flood protection.

Knowledge network

  • The NBRM applied research group contributes to the following study programmes: the HVHL BSc in Land and Water Management, the BSc minor in Sustainable River Engineering (a joint programme with HAN University of Applied Sciences), and the professional MSc River Delta Development (a joint programme with the HZ University of Applied Sciences and Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences).
  • Jantsje van Loon-Steensma is supervising two Wageningen University PhD candidates conducting research into NBS: Kim van den Hoven (Dutch Research Council project on the Living Lab Hedwige-Prosper polder) and Cengiz Arslan (EU GreenDeal REST-COAST project).
  • She participates in the Water Lecturers’ Platform and is a member of the government’s water safety expertise network (ENW-K).
  • The NBRM applied research group is involved in the RAAK-Public River Works project (led by Maria Barciela Rial at the HAN University of Applied Sciences) and the Sprong Delta Technology ‘Water als Verbinding’ (Water as a Connection) project (which the HZ University of Applied Sciences is also participating in). Student projects are carried out through a partnership agreement with the Rivierenland Water Board.

Want to know more?

If you have any questions about the applied research group, please email [email protected].