Shallow coastal seas are subject to an increasing pressure by offshore operations, like sand mining and the construction and operation of offshore infrastructure. This proposal aims to develop knowledge and design rules for smart and sustainable use of the sandy seabed.
The sea bed topography, seabed life, sediment dynamics and hydrodynamics form a coupled system. When disturbed, this coupled system needs time to recover. Anthropogenic disturbances will affect the (local) ecosystem. Moreover, these changes will affect the sediment-water interaction and the potential of the seabed to store fine sediments. Consequently, the potential of the system for recovery may be affected. The project will lead to a better understanding of the functioning and stability of the coupled system during the lifetime of the offshore operation. This requires integration of knowledge from ecology, geomorphology and fine sediment dynamics.
Simultaneously, we will study how we can take advantage of offshore operations to make the local marine environment more attractive in terms of biodiversity by introducing the practice of ecological landscaping (smart design). Field experience will be obtained by creating different bed forms and combinations of sediment characteristics after an offshore operation which provides ideal habitat circumstances for target species.
The project will provide the knowledge and tools (combined in an interactive SANDBOX) required for the design and implementation of sustainable offshore operations. Strong cooperation with end-users from the private sector, government and non-governmental organizations is embedded in the project via several implementation cases where offshore operations are planned.