A bit of a disappointment for my friends, but the Sand motor is nothing more than a massive pile of sand located at Kijkduin, south of Scheveningen. It was put there by the dredging companies Boskales and Van Oord in 2011 and initially looked like an island shaped as a hook. Because of its precise shape it started off being a huge art piece and with its 2 km stretch and 1 km width the Sand Motor was as big as 256 soccer fields. During its first year, the shape of the Sand Motor changed rapidly. Wind, waves and currents started to transport the sand to the north and south of the Sand Motor, but also towards the dunes and even back into the sea. Because of the rapid changes we all thought the model predictions were wrong and the Sand Motor would soon disappear. However, the Sand Motor just needed to change from an art structure into a natural formed peninsula and soon after the Sand Motor started to change as planned.
By putting sand on the beaches and dunes we are fighting against erosion. Although this way of coastal management has been proven successful, innovation was needed to prepare the Netherlands for the expecting sea level rise. With the new concept “Building with Nature” erosion is used in coastal management instead of fighting it. The Sand Motor is an example of this “Building with Nature” approach and because it has never been done before, a pilot project. The uniqueness of the Sand Motor is threefold. First, a 10 km coastline is protected for 20-30 years: natural forces like wind and water will be transporting the sand from the Sand Motor to the place where the coastline is most vulnerable. Second, the Sand Motor is a new recreation area where people can take a stroll and kite-surf. Third, the coastline will be able to develop naturally, because it won’t be disturbed by large amounts of sand for 20-30 years.
With the Sand Motor being a pilot project, a lot of unknowns are still present. This is why a project was initiated in 2013: NatureCoast. The idea of the NatureCoast project is to be able to understand the behavior of the Sand Motor and to give advice when another Sand Motor will be created along the Dutch coast or even abroad. A lot of topics are addressed in the project: the development of vegetation and dunes, the effects of wind, sea and rain, what kind of animals the Sand Motor attracts, the diversity of soil organisms and the quality of the water and sand. This last topic, the quality of water and sand, also known as “hydrogeochemistry”, is my topic and I will explain this further in another blog post.
Besides the five universities that are involved in this project, companies and governmental agencies are also part of the project and we call them stakeholders. Stakeholders are involved in the funding of the project and in the input and feedback of the research conducted by the PhD students. This makes the project NatureCoast not only focused on new scientific insights, but also on practical matters, and is therefore interdisciplinary.
For more information on
- Sand Motor in the Netherlands, construction, operation and research (Sand Engine)
- The Sand Motor – Passionate research
Blog entry by Iris Pit