Coastal changes not only caused by wind and waves, but also by people

News - 06 April 2023 - Webredactie

Our coast protects us from the water; it is necessary understand its dynamic processes and to retain the sand at the coast. Natural influences such as wind and waves are constantly changing the coastline. Another important process affecting the coastline is often overlooked: human activity. To investigate this, Roderik Lindenbergh of TU Delft receives a grant from the NWO's Open Technology Programme for the AdaptCoast project.

The morning after a stormy day, the coastline can look very different. Wind and waves erode parts of the beach and create sand accumulations elsewhere. Anthropogenic events are often disregarded in scientific research. When the beach bars reopen soon, many bathers come to the beach and bulldozers work hard to get the sand in the right place.

Continuing research on natural influences on the coast

"We have been researching coastal changes for a long time. For instance, we have been tracking the beach at Noordwijk with a laser scanner for three years. Even without extreme conditions, we see changes occurring in the coast over a period of months, due to wind, for example," tells Roderik Lindenbergh (Geoscience and Remote Sensing TU Delft) about the ongoing project Coastscan. What they noticed, and what the users in the project like Rijkswaterstaat and several Water Authorities also pointed out to them, was the influence of people. "Especially around beach bars, bulldozers are rebuilding the coast to make space for the pavilion, to raise a protective embankment or to make a footpath accessible."

There already is a lot of knowledge about natural processes taking place at the beach-dune system, but human processes are not accounted for in models that predict how the coast evolves. And that is exactly what Lindenbergh wants to change with the AdaptCoast project. "We have already seen that bulldozers regularly make substantial adjustments, which has an effect on the coastline that we need to include in predictions. This way, we can also anticipate these influences and be able to protect our coastline."

Adaptive measurement

Suitable locations are currently being selected to monitor coastal changes. A permanent laser scanner known from the forerunner of this project is being used for this purpose. 3D camera systems are also being deployed and the researchers are using a new drone. Lindenbergh: "If the algorithm shows impactful changes are about to happen, we can deploy the drone on site to laser scan the coast from above." The project also focuses on adaptive and smart measurement, to find out at what times it is necessary to take extensive measurements, and at what times the intensity of monitoring can be lowered.

Open Technology Programme funds three Delft research projects

The board of NWO Domain Applied and Engineering Sciences awards funding to seven research projects through the Open Technology Programme. Three of the total seven proposals have been awarded to Delft researchers. In total, NWO is funding the projects with 5.8 million euros, companies involved and other organisations are investing 900 thousand euros. Read more about these three projects at TU Delft in this news article.

Photo: The permanent laser scanner at the beach in Noordwijk. Credit: Sander Vos