Research output

How may beach nourishment affect the sandy beach ecosystem? The case of Belgian beaches

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingContribution to a report not published by INBO



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings 'Dunes and Estuaries 2005': International Conference on nature restoration practices in European coastal habitats
Number of pages12
PublisherVlaams Instituut voor de Zee (VLIZ)
Publication date2005
Publication statusPublished - 2005


Though often regarded as biological deserts, sandy beaches provide a unique habitat for several species. Research was conducted by a consortium of experts with as a first objective to provide an integrated overview of the Belgian beach ecosystem and all its major components. A second objective comprised a review of available literature on the ecological impact of beach nourishment. To meet the first objective, an integrated overview of the Belgian sandy beach ecosystem based on spatial and temporal variation of fauna and flora of 11 sandy beaches is provided. The presented results corroborate the overlooked ecological significance of sandy beaches as a habitat. Besides sedimentology and hydrodynamics, five ecosystem components were taken into account: microphytobenthos, vascular plants, terrestrial arthropods, zoobenthos and avifauna. Nourishment of beaches is a large scale anthropogenic influence on sandy beach ecosystem. Sandy beaches are regarded as systems with a strong resilience towards such impacts. Nevertheless serious (short term) ecological effects can be expected. A review of prior studies indicates that the impact of nourishment is rather case-specific and that it is difficult to draw general conclusions. Short term impact is mostly large due to total mortality of benthic life. It seems very likely that potential recovery from the impact of nourishment will be limited to two essential, species specific pathways: (1) survival by resident organisms and (2) re-colonisation by immigrating individuals, the latter depending on both the dispersal capacities and habitat demands of the organisms. Further research is needed to explore possibilities for reducing detrimental ecological effects. Specific studies are needed towards the survival options, the dispersal capacities and habitat demands of the species present. These should allow for management guidelines to be drawn in terms of preferable nourishment sediment characteristics, timing and practice of the deposition of the sand.

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