IMDC recognises the importance of broad integration of nature-based solutions with adaptive strategies. Natural habitats can substantially reduce exposure and vulnerability. Additionally, if designed properly, they are also naturally adaptable to changing environmental conditions. At IMDC we have acquired valuable experience in the design and implementation of nature-based engineering solutions for the management of rivers, estuaries, and coastal waterfronts across several global projects. Our expertise combines the knowledge on the physical and ecological processes and a broad experience in the design and implementation of feasible engineering solutions, building on the capacity to set-up, validate and calibrate a range of numerical models to predict impacts from hydro-morphological processes on the nature-based solution.
Environmental Impact Assessment studies
Ecological impact studies at strategic and project levels (e.g., Environmental Impact Assessment, Appropriate Assessment, Flemish Ecological Network assessment, nature assessment, etc.) are an important tool as to achieve external integration and to support decision-making. IMDC has the inhouse expertise to assess environmental impacts for water related projects marine/offshore (e.g. dredging, coastal development, blue energy, and marine infrastructures), and onshore (e.g. inland water, groundwater extraction projects). We have built extensive experience with the EU Birds and Habitats Directives, the protection of habitats and species and in providing advice on how to maintain these habitats in a proper state of conservation in relation to new developments. IMDC has the necessary tools to produce a life-cycle analysis for blue energy projects, water quality modelling to assess the impact of turbidity increase, noise impacts, nautical safety studies, and providing mitigating measures.
Environmental policy studies
IMDC carries out policy studies in the field of environment and water for regional, federal and local policy makers in Flanders. These policy studies are often related to the implementation of both international legislation (the Birds and Habitats Directives, Water Framework Directive, Marine Frame work Directive, 2030 climate and energy framework) and national or local legislation. We attach immense value to the innovative approach of these policy studies since they serve as a framework for future environmental, nature and spatial development. Our contentual focus is on all aspects of environmental quality and sustainable development at the interface between water and the environment. With our environmental policy studies, we help to evaluate the content, implementation or impact of a policy; analyze issues and substantiate decisions. IMDC does this by supporting the definition of policy priorities, by advising on how policy solutions can be implemented and by establishing collaborations between all parties involved.
Ecosystem Service analysis studies and sustainability tools
Ecosystem service studies help to assess the wider impact of human activities – direct and indirect effects; develop a more integrated impact assessment; assess the multifunctionality of marine infrastructure; assess the added value of ecological solutions. An ecosystem service study is meaningful during each step of a project cycle, during the initial concept and preparation phase, design phase, construction, and operation, evaluation, and adaption phase. IMDC has developed a range of state-of-the art ecosystem services assessment methodologies to analyse positive and negative effects of water related projects. Depending on the goals of the study and data and budget constraints, different techniques can be used. We also develop business-oriented frameworks to evaluate the impact of industries on ecosystem services and natural capital.
Hydro-ecological modelling concerns the calculation of the potential for (ground)water-dependent vegetation types based on information of (abiotic) site conditions. In order to gain insight into the ecological potential of the area, the hydro-ecological model NICHE-Flanders will be used (NICHE: Nature Impact Assessment of Changes in Hydro-Ecological Systems). The NICHE Flanders model is a model that was developed by INBO specifically for the Flemish situation to spatially assess the development opportunities for vegetation. Based on four abiotic habitat characteristics (soil type, groundwater levels, nutrient richness, and acidity), NICHE determines the possible development of groundwater dependent vegetation. For situations where the NICHE-Flanders model cannot be applied TE/IMDC develops a hydro-ecological model tailored to the specific situation.
IMDC’s environmental models provide detailed simulations to address critical environmental issues such as water quality, plastic movements, pollution as well as impacts on environmental processes combined with local as well as global impacts. IMDC’s environmental models link hydrodynamics and sediment transport to ecological parameters and environmental impact studies. The models provide a basis for clients and stakeholders in different sectors and industries such as offshore, coastal and port industries as well as water related governmental agencies and authorities, by finding the nexus between governing physical processes and potential ecological changes. Predictions from these models can be used to understand the effects from multi-stress impacts such as regional (e.g., eutrophication) combined with global (e.g., increasing climate change temperature) events.
IMDC assists in organising the baseline studies and data gathering activities, needed for the EIA or due diligence reports. During the execution phase any required environmental monitoring can be tackled by IMDC. IMDC is specialised in tailor made measurement campaigns to acquire the necessary data for any (complex) hydrodynamic, sediment or impact assessment related problem. Furthermore, IMDC developed the Synapps platform to easily visualise data from measurements and models in both space and time. This platform offers the user an innovative highly configurable environment allowing to visualise their data in custom-made interactive maps and graphs.