The current paper aims to check whether the factors affecting metal mobility in intertidal sediments and floodplain soils of the river Scheldt, as identified under controlled greenhouse conditions in previous studies, also play a similar role under variable field conditions. Moreover, we aimed to assess the importance of these factors as a function of sampling time and depth, with respect to the natural variations in water table levels. This field monitoring revealed that the mobility of metals in intertidal sediments of the Scheldt estuary indeed are affected by factors which were identified to affect the metal fate in the upper sediment layer in previous greenhouse experiments. However, the effects were often less pronounced under field conditions. This can be attributed to the lower sampling resolution, the occurrence of interactions between factors, the disturbance of microbial communities during setup of greenhouse experiments and the more moderate environmental conditions in the field, affecting microbial and enzymatic activities. At most of the sampled wetlands, the level of the water table fluctuated only slightly during fall, winter and spring, whereas it decreased substantially during summer, especially at the sites with more sandy sediments. The highest sulphide concentrations were found at the sites where the water table level never decreased considerably. These sulphides primarily suppress the availability of Cd, Cu, Ni and Zn. Organic complexation resulted in the mobilisation of Cu, Ni and Cr. The concentrations of Cd, Ni and Zn in the pore water were affected by Fe/Mn oxide reduction, whereas Cd and Zn concentrations appeared to be also affected by the salinity. © 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.