Marine biological valuation of the shallow Belgian coastal zone: A space-use conflict example within the context of marine spatial planning

S. Vanden Eede, L. Laporta, K. Deneudt, Eric Stienen, S. Derous, S. Degraer, M. Vincx

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    The Belgian coastal zone hosts a complex of space-use and resource-use activities with a myriad of pressures. Specifically at the beaches, predictions on sea-level rise, storms and flood risk from the North Sea have led to several big coastal defence projects. Management of sandy beaches is a multi-faceted and complex endeavor, where the interests of several stakeholders need to be combined.
    In this paper, we used the marine biological valuation (BV) method in order to (1) analyse the spatial structure of the intertidal and shallow subtidal Belgian coastal zone; and (2) explore the applications of BV for an ecosystem-based approach to marine spatial planning of two space-use conflicts at the Belgian coast, being flood protection, by means of beach nourishment, and nature conservation.
    The biological value was assessed with a focus on a detailed and integrated dataset (1995 – 2011), gathering all available ecological information on macrobenthos, epibenthos, hyperbenthos and birds. The 67 km Belgian coastline was divided into an across-shore intertidal and shallow subtidal subzone while the width of the along-shore subzones comprises 250 m for benthic components and wider distances of 3 km for the birds. The intrinsic biological value of each subzone was calculated using the BV method and the pertained score, ranging from very low to very high, was plotted accordingly in order to obtain a marine biological valuation map (BVM).
    Following trends in BV along the Belgian coastline were detected: (1) a strong mosaic pattern of BV along the coastline; (2) a clear lack of (benthic) data at the eastern part of the Belgian coast; (3) a rather high biological value score for around 70 % of the shallow part of the subzones, compared with the intertidal part; (4) a high/very high biological values found in intertidal zones located immediately to the east of the harbours Nieuwpoort, Oostende and Zeebrugge.
    A detailed analysis of protected areas and areas under coastal flood risk indicates that the use of BVMs is very promising in order to differentiate between several impact values. BV can therefore be used as a management tool by local decision makers and can allow for the integration of ‘natural/ecological values’ at an early stage of policy implementation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationImpact of beach nourishment on coastal ecosystems, with recommendations for coastal policy in Belgium
    PublisherUniversiteit Gent
    Publication date2013
    ISBN (Print)978-90-90278-4-38
    Publication statusPublished - 2013

    Thematic list

    • Coast and estuaries

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B280-animal-ecology

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