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Beach nourishment: an ecologically sound coastal defence alternative? A review

Research output: Contribution to journalA1: Web of Science-article


  • D Bonte
  • T Gheskiere
  • P Grootaert
  • M Mathys
  • K Sabbe
  • V Van Lancker
  • M Vincx
  • S Degraer


Original languageEnglish
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)419-435
Number of pages17
Publication statusPublished - 2006


Even though beach nourishment is generally considered as an environment-friendly option for coastal protection and beach restoration, sizeable impacts on several beach ecosystem components (microphytobenthos, vascular plants, terrestrial arthropods, marine zoobenthos and avifauna) are described in the literature, as reviewed in this paper.Negative, ecosystem-component specific effects of beach nourishment dominate in the short to medium term, with the size of the iinpact being determined by (1) activities during the construction phase, (2) the quality and (3) the quantity of the nourishment sand, (4) the timing, place and size of proect, and (5) the nourishment technique and strategy applied Over the long term the speed and degree of ecological recovery largely depend on the physical characteristics of the beach habitat, mainly determined by (1) sediment quality and quantity, (2) the nourishment technique and strategy applied, (3) the place and the size of nourishment and (4) the physical environment prior to nourishment.The limited information available on indirect and cumulative ecological effects indicates that these effects cannot be neglected in an overall impact assessment. Hence, for ecologically good practice of beach nourishment it is advised (1) to choose nourishment sands with a sediment composition comparable to that of the natural sediment, (2) to avoid short-term compaction by ploughing immediately after construction, (3) to execute the nourishment in a period of low beach use by birds and other mobile organisms, (4) to choose a number of smaller projects rather than a single large nourishment project and (5) to select the nourishment technique with respect to the local natural values.In order to allow an objective, scientifically sound, ecological adjustment of future nourishments, research should aim at (1) taking into account the full sandy beach ecosystem, (2) avoiding strategic imperfections in experimental design and (3) elucidating the biological processes behind impact and recovery of all ecosystem components.

EWI Biomedical sciences

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  • Speybroeck_etal_2006_AquatConserv

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