Impact of mega-scale sand extraction on tidal dynamics in semi-enclosed basins: an idealized model study with application to the Southern North Sea

Wiebe de Boer, Pieter C. Roos, Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher, Ad Stolk

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Long-term considerations of repeated and increasing sand extraction on the Netherlands Continental Shelf (North Sea) may lead to the creation of a mega-scale extraction trench in front of the Dutch coast (length hundreds of km, width over 10 km, depth several m). We investigate the impact of such a huge topographic intervention on tidal dynamics, which is a key aspect in hydrodynamics, and indirectly also affecting morphodynamics and ecology. Because of the unprecedented extent of the extraction scenario, we follow a generic approach aimed at understanding the physical mechanisms behind the changes, the orders of magnitude and area of influence. Hence, rather than applying an existing numerical model, we develop an idealized model for tide propagation in semi-enclosed rectangular basins. The model geometry consists of three adjacent compartments with a realistic cross-basin depth profile, the trench being located in the second compartment, while assuming along-basin uniformity of depth within each compartment. The problem is forced by an incoming Kelvin wave. The solution in each compartment, satisfying the linear depth-averaged shallow water equations on the f plane including bottom friction, is written as the superposition of semi-numerically obtained wave solutions. A collocation technique is employed to satisfy no-normal flow across the basin's closed end as well as continuity of elevation and flux across the interfaces between the compartments. The results indicate changes in tidal range, phase and currents throughout the whole basin, which shows the importance of a model domain on the scale of the basin. Changes in coastal tidal range show zones of decrease and increase (order cm). Changes in coastal shore-parallel tidal current amplitudes are of the order of cm s− 1. A sensitivity analysis for various trench geometries shows that the hydrodynamic impact generally increases with increasing extraction volume, being more sensitive to trench depth and width than trench length. The changes in tidal currents may structurally alter sediment transport rates with several percents. As the bathymetry and coastal morphology result from subtle balances in long-term sediment transport, the trench may indirectly affect various user functions and values (coastal safety, navigation, marine ecology, cables and pipelines) and, hence, be of concern to coastal management.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)678-689
JournalCoastal engineering
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Sand extraction
  • Semi-enclosed basins
  • North Sea
  • IR-78403
  • METIS-274771
  • Taylor problem
  • Tidal dynamics


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