Coastal engineers embrace nature: Characterizing the metamorphosis in hydraulic engineering in terms of four continua

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Abstract

Hydraulic engineering infrastructures, such as reservoirs, dikes, breakwaters, and inlet closures, have significantly impacted ecosystem functioning over the last two centuries. Currently, nature-based solutions are receiving increasing attention in hydraulic engineering projects and research programs. However, there is a lack of reflection on the concomitant, fundamental changes occurring in the field of hydraulic engineering, and coastal engineering in particular, and what this could mean for sustainability. In this article, we signal the shift from conventional to ecosystem-based hydraulic engineering design and characterize this in terms of four continua: (i) the degree of inclusion of ecological knowledge, (ii) the extent to which the full infrastructural lifecycle is addressed, (iii) the complexity of the actor arena taken into account, and (iv) the resulting form of the infrastructural artefact. We support our arguments with two carefully selected, iconic examples from the Netherlands and indicate how the stretching ideals of ecosystem-based engineering could engender further shifts towards sustainability.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2504
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Volume12
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Keywords

  • Building with Nature
  • Coastal and river engineering
  • Critical reflection
  • Ecosystem-based design
  • Impacts on nature and society
  • Infrastructure lifecycle
  • Multi-actor systems
  • Multifunctional flood defense
  • Nature-based solutions

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