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Building with Nature Guideline > Toolbox > Systems Analysis > Ecosystem-Based Design Rules for Sand Extraction Sites

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Ecosystem-Based Design Rules for Sand Extraction Sites


Type: Method

Project Phase: Planning and Design, Construction

Purpose: Develope new sand extraction strategies to balance impacted area, sand yield, costs and ecological effects

Requirements: knowledge of marine ecology, sediment characteristics, hydrodynamics and morphodynamics

Relevant Software: -



In the Netherlands, the demand for marine sand is still increasing. In 2015, a total volume of 26 million m3 of sand was extracted from the Dutch Continental Shelf (DCS) for coastal nourishment. Due to the expected sea level rise, the demand for sand to maintain the Dutch coast with nourishments may increase from 12 million m3 to 40 - 85 million m3.

Next to sand extraction, many other facilities and services are provided on the DCS such as wind parks, oil and gas platforms, cables and pipelines, shipping and fishing and to keep the harbours accessible also maintenance of shipping lanes and the disposal of dredged harbour sediments (Fig. 1). Specific areas are also designated as Natura2000 areas.

To safeguard the supply of sand, new sand extraction strategies are needed to the balance between impacted surface area, sand yield, costs and ecological effects.

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How to Use

Ecosystem-based design (EBD) rules for sand extraction sites

The short-term effects of deep sand extraction (20 – 24 m) are compared with other case studies such as, regular shallow sand extraction on the Dutch Continental Shelf (DCS) (2 m) and an 8-m deepened shipping lane (Fig. 10). For intercomparing between case studies, we used tide-averaged bed shear stress as a generic proxy for environmental and related ecological effects. Bed shear stress ( ) can be estimated with a two-dimensional quadratic friction law (eq. 1) and showed a decrease from 0.50 to 0.04 N m−2 in a sand extraction site in 20 m deep water and extraction depths up to 24 m.

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Practical Applications

Pilot Ecological sand extraction site

A Building with Nature pilot has been executed in the sand extraction site used for the construction of the Port of Rotterdam harbour enlargement Maasvlakte 2 (MV2). (Ecosystem-oriented Landscaping of Sand Extraction Sites).


The pilot experiment took place in the sand extraction site used for the development of the Port of Rotterdam enlargement ‘Maasvlakte 2’ (MV2). Between 2008 and 2012, 220 million m3 was extracted from a 20-m deep area south of the Euromaasgeul shipping lane. A large northern extraction site is separated by an exclusion area consisting of clay and a southern smaller extraction site (Fig. 13).

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Other examples

Outside this Building with Nature application, plenty of examples of similar projects are present.

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