Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research

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In my PhD project I use field flumes to quantify biogeormophological thresholds in coastal ecosystems. Flumes are basically channels in which the water flow or waves can be manipulated, so that you have controlled condtions. By designing such flumes to be useable in the field, we can impose strong storms or tidal flow on a naturally formed coastal habitats, such as seagrass meadows, tidal flats, and salt marshes. This is important, because we need to know the resilience of these systems to extreme conditions in order to for example use them effectively as Nature Based Solutions. 

We have developed a range of field flumes, as each habitat is unique and therefore requires a unique approach. For example, seagrass meadows are sensitive to frequent sediment resuspension, and therefore we measure this using underwater flumes. 

Measuring sediment resuspension in seagrasses with an underwater wave flume

Tidal flats are complex in that the erosion resistance of the sediment is spatially heterogeneous and changes with the seasons due to the presence and behaviour of animals living on or in the mud. This requires a flume setup which is able to process a high amount of samples. 

Tidal flat erodibility is measured using small sediment cores collected from the field

Salt marshes are prone to cliff formation and retreat due to wave attack, which causes erosion at the tidal flat - salt marsh boundary. To study this we use a large mobile wave generator. 

A mobile wave generator is used to study cliff formation at the salt marsh boundary