A large-scale coastal engineering project (the ‘Delta works’) changed large-scale, dynamic estuarine nature in the southwest of the Netherlands into a diverse mosaic of ecosystems with different characteristics. This led to a suite of ecological problems, which is why plans are made to restore estuarine dynamics. Until today the effect of the Delta works on biodiversity in the subsystems is still poorly understood. We combined long-term datasets on macrobenthos, fish, birds and key species and present reliable and factual information on changes in biodiversity in the Southwest Delta in the past decennia in relation to the Delta works and other developments. Effects of the Delta works on biodiversity are highly diverse and depend on many different factors and histories specific for the different water bodies. If connections are restored, effects on species richness and biodiversity will depend on the specific characteristics of the separate basins. Because restoration of estuarine dynamics likely occurs on a reduced scale, effects on biodiversity may only be modest. However, effects on the occurrence of rare species of the brackish and intertidal transition zones may be more significant. It is recommended to study this further.
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