How human activities affect the fine sediment distribution in the Dutch Coastal Zone seabed

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The fine sediment distribution in the seabed is an important indicator for the ecological functioning of shallow coastal seas. In this paper, we investigate the processes and conditions that determine the fine sediment distribution in the Dutch coastal zone surficial seabed, while also assessing the response of the system to human interventions. An extensive sediment dataset, collected in the Dutch coastal zone from 2006 to 2014, is presented. These data are used to map the distribution of fines in the seabed of the DCZ at unique spatiotemporal scales. For the entire Dutch coastal zone, the distribution of fines generally agrees well with previous studies. The recent extension of the Port of Rotterdam, the Maasvlakte 2 reclamation, was found to locally change the distribution of fines. In the sand mining pit and directly south of the reclamation, fines percentages in the seabed increased by more than 10%. We developed a conceptual framework to analyse the distribution of fines and how it is affected by human interventions. Three components are distinguished within this framework: (1) sources of fines; (2) transport pathways; and (3) accumulation potential. These components are determined both qualitatively and quantitatively, based on high-resolution bathymetric and hydrodynamic model data. The distinction between the three components makes it possible to unravel the contributions of different human interventions to the changes in the fines distribution. In the case of Maasvlakte 2, the local increase of fines percentage in the seabed could thus be attributed to a temporary additional source of fines and enhanced accumulation potential. The high spatiotemporal resolution of the new sediment dataset proved crucial to enable development and testing of the framework to evaluate the impact of (large) engineering works on the spatial distribution of fines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107314
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Data analysis
  • Fines
  • Human activities
  • North Sea
  • Seabed
  • Shallow coastal seas


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