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New book on the Sand Motor offers research findings and reflection

How can the Dutch Sand Motor strengthen our coasts in a natural way? And how can this knowledge and experience help prevent coastal erosion in Jamaica? Researchers Alexander van Oudenhoven (Institute of Environmental Sciences Leiden) and Arjen Luijendijk (Delft University of Technology) have compiled and integrated research and reflections on this man-made peninsula in a new book.

The book ‘The Sand Motor: a nature-based response to climate change’ is the outcome of the interdisciplinary NatureCoast research programme, which ran between 2013 and 2018. The first copy of the book was presented to the Delta Programme Commissioner, Peter Glas, at the NKWK conference on 14 May.

Coastal protection and recreation

The Sand Motor, a man-made peninsula just south of The Hague, was constructed in 2011. Its main role is to use the forces of nature – wind, waves and currents – to spread its sand along the coastline to locations that are eroding. This approach is also referred to as ‘Building with Nature.’ Besides improving coastal protection by widening the beach and simulating dune growth, the Sand Motor also provides a new and unique natural landscape, which offers limitless recreation potential.

A coastal laboratory 

NatureCoast began in 2013, led by now Emeritus Professor Hydrologic Engineering Marcel Stive (Delft University of Technology). The aim was to gain insights into the behaviour and functioning of large-scale sand nourishment along the coast. The Sand Motor thus became a ‘laboratory’ at which numerous researchers were able to carry out measurements and test theories in a real-life setting. From the outset, NatureCoast was an interdisciplinary programme, thus ensuring that the many different scientific disciplines involved in the research were included. Peter van Bodegom and Alexander van Oudenhoven from Leiden University were responsible for the research integration within the project.  

The book The Sand Motor provides the highlights of the interdisciplinary Sand Motor research project on the coast by The Hague.
The book The Sand Motor provides the highlights of the interdisciplinary Sand Motor research project on the coast by The Hague.

Integral approach crucial

Twelve PhD researchers and three postdocs from various Dutch universities and as many scientific disciplines conducted research across six themes: coastal safety, dune formation, marine ecology, coastal ecology, hydrology and geochemistry, and governance. Besides research institutes, various private companies and other end-users actively participated in the consortium, to further bridge the gap between fundamental research and practice-based questions from end-users.

Collaboration between researchers and society

‘This type of research has become more common in large projects,’ says Alexander van Oudenhoven, who edited the book along with Arjen Luijendijk. ‘There are many interesting new research findings in the book, which is written in an accessible style. In addition, we show the value of interdisciplinary research and collaboration between society and researchers. We emphasise this in the book by setting it up as a dialogue between the researchers from NatureCoast and the end-users of the knowledge generated, such as policymakers, public organisations and engineering firms.

The Sand Motor goes international

The research team also investigated whether the Sand Motor approach might also benefit coastal areas in other countries. They found that it is often unwise to simply try to copy and paste the Dutch model to other locations around the globe. However, the knowledge and experience gained during the NatureCoast project has already proven useful to tailor-made coastal protection solutions abroad. Van Oudenhoven: ‘You must always consider the local context and questions such as: what is the position of the stakeholders? To what extent will the original ecosystem be affected? And what are the main causes of coastal erosion?’ The NatureCoast researchers have, for instance, been actively involved in the design of a Sand-Motor-like solution in Bacton, UK. This beach nourishment will be constructed in the summer of 2019.

The entire book 'The Sand Motor: a nature-based response to climate change' is available online.

The first copy of The Sand Motor was presented to Delta Programme Commissioner, Peter Glas, at the NKWK Conference.
The first copy of The Sand Motor was presented to Delta Programme Commissioner, Peter Glas, at the NKWK Conference.

Partners

The NatureCoast consortium comprised six universities and research institutes (universities of Delft, Utrecht, Twente, Leiden and Wageningen, and NIOZ), as well as end-users such as Deltares and Imares, the Province of South Holland, the Public Works Agency, consultancy firms (RHDHV, Arcadis, Witteveen & Bos) and dredging companies Boskalis and Van Oord. The research was funded by NWO-TTW.

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