Asynchronous dune development on a Dutch urbanized beach due to buildings and other anthropogenic influences

Sander Vos*, Christa van IJzendoorn, Roderik Lindenbergh, Alain De Wulf

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review


Coastal dunes provide an important role to society by fulfilling various ecosystem functions. These are however under pressure due to sea level rise, climate change and urbanization. Shoreward sand transport can partly mitigate sea level rise and climate effects by contributing to dune growth but increasing urbanization of beaches can block this transport and restoration of ecosystem functions. In this paper, we investigate the long-term effects of buildings and other anthropogenic influences on dune development up to a decadal temporal scale.

A series of three topographic datasets is used to study the effect of anthropogenic actors on local dune development at an urban beach in Noordwijk, the Netherlands. Datasets range from a 100 to 3000-meter spatial scale and from a weekly to yearly temporal scale. On the smallest spatio-temporal scale topographic measurements of the effects of two containers placed on Noordwijk beach are studied. The intermediate dataset is obtained from the 2-year CoastScan project monitoring surface elevation around one beach pavilion at (bi) monthly intervals. Finally, 15 years of annual airborne lidar data along a 2.7-kilometer stretch of the beach/dune system in Noordwijk is used to evaluate the effect of 17 pavilions.

The small-scale experiment shows that horseshoe-shaped deposition patterns developed on the leeside of the containers. These depositions follow daily wind changes and leave deposits corresponding to the residual wind direction over the whole measuring period. Similar patterns are found around the beach pavilion, but, due to anthropogenic influences like bulldozing and beach shaping, longer term patterns in the direct vicinity of the pavilion and the dunes are hard to discern.

Evaluation of the longer term dataset reveals large variations in dune height and volume in the neighborhood of beach pavilions. Dune height/volume increases vary between 1-8 m in dune height and vary between 0-200 m3 in dune volume after 15 years along 2.7 km of coast. An autocorrelation analysis shows that the alongshore variability length scale in dune volume of urbanized dunes can be 10 times smaller than for natural dunes. For about half the beach pavilions, variations in dune height and volume are significantly correlated to the location of the beach pavilion. Here the growth behind the buildings is lower than in the surrounding area which might have consequences for long-term resilience against future climate changes.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusSubmitted - 2024


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