BR.20.002 – OR ELSE: Operational Recommendations for Ecosystem-based Large-scale Sand Extraction

Route: The blue route: water as a pathway to innovation and sustainable growth

Cluster question: 012 How do the seas and oceans function, and what role will they play in the future?

Large-scale sand extraction leads to permanent changes in seabed morphology, stratification, currents and increased quantities of suspended sediments. This activity is, and will remain, an integral part of the Dutch coastal management stategy. Therefore we are faced with the challenge of making optimal choices that will minimise the ecological impacts caused by extraction, while still meeting the national demands for sand.
Marine ecosystem services provide economical revenue to fisheries, aquaculture and related industries. Many fish species use the coast as a nursery habitat and utilize larval drift as a means to arrive there from offshore spawning areas. Changes in connectivity between spawning and nursery areas in combination with changes in nearshore food availability due to large-scale extractions will influence fish population dynamics. While it is feasible to design extractions in a way that minimises or prevents loss of ecological and economical wealth, this requires knowledge of ecological changes related to excavation.
In view of increasing extraction volumes due to climate-change related coastal-protection measures, it is necessary to formulate operational recommendations for ecosystem-based large-scale sand extraction. With the goal to optimise sand-extraction designs, we will use numerical and statistical models to predict changes in key environmental factors. Hydrodynamics and morphodynamics will be integrated with species and population models to assess effects on the marine environment, ultimately focusing on fish populations and the fisheries sector. We will describe regime shifts in ecosystem functioning as a consequence of increasing sand extraction volumes and subsequently develop decision support tools that provide policy makers with operational recommendations on ecologically sustainable large-scale sand extraction. Optimal design of extraction is essential to maintain a diverse, stable, viable ecosystem which continues to provide ecosystem services.


algae production, coastal hydrodynamics, fish populations, fisheries, larval transport, macrobenthic habitats, marine ecology, morphodynamics, sand extraction, shellfish production, stratification

Other organisations

NIOZ, Stichting de Noordzee, Technische Universiteit Delft (TUD), Universiteit Twente (UT)


Organisation Wageningen Marine Research (WUR)
Name M.J. (Martin) Baptist