BwN Using ecosystems for coastal protection

Project

BwN Using ecosystems for coastal protection

Investigating the potential use of biogenic reefs in the lower intertidal zone for consolidation and stabilization of tidal flats in the Oosterschelde.

Globally flooding and coastal erosion represent serious threats along many coastlines, and will become more serious as a consequence of human-induced changes and accelerated sea-level rise. In case of the Delta Region in the Netherlands, tidal areas are disappearing at a fast rate after the realization of the Delta works.

The natural dynamic cycle of accretion and erosion changed into a continuous erosion process. Reduction in tidal flat area and elevation results in a loss of valuable habitats, impacting biodiversity including bird populations and seals. It also poses threats to coastal defence as dikes become less protected from waves and currents because of loss of tidal flats and salt marshes in front of the dikes.

To adequately deal with these threats, innovative, cost-efficient and sustainable methods are required for conservation of estuarine tidal habitats and coastal defence.

Ecosystem Engineering is the modification of the abiotic environment due to biological activity. It  is an important mechanism in shaping ecosystems. Ecosystem engineers such as oyster reefs or mussel beds are conspicuous habitats that can influence tidal flow and wave action within estuaries.  In doing so, they modify patterns of sediment deposition, consolidation, and stabilization. Therefore, the concept of ecosystemengineering offers promising possibilities for a sustainable coastal protection.

Aim

This research project uses the concept of ecosystem engineering to investigate the potential use of biogenic reefs in the lower intertidal zone for consolidation and stabilization of tidal flats in the Oosterschelde. The project will provide the means to evaluate the effectiveness and impacts of an innovative and sustainable approach to reduce erosion of intertidal areas.

To realize this project a multidisciplinary project team is set up with scientists from IMARES, Deltares, NIOO and Van Oord.