The influence of groundwater depth on coastal dune development at sand flats close to inlets

Filipe Galiforni Silva (Corresponding Author), Kathelijne M. Wijnberg, Alma V. de Groot, Suzanne J.M.H. Hulscher

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A cellular automata model is used to analyze the effects of groundwater levels and sediment supply on aeolian dune development occurring on sand flats close to inlets. The model considers, in a schematized and probabilistic way, aeolian transport processes, groundwater influence, vegetation development, and combined effects of waves and tides that can both erode and accrete the sand flat. Next to three idealized cases, a sand flat adjoining the barrier island of Texel, the Netherlands, was chosen as a case study. Elevation data from 18 annual LIDAR surveys was used to characterize sand flat and dune development. Additionally, a field survey was carried out to map the spatial variation in capillary fringe depth across the sand flat. Results show that for high groundwater situations, sediment supply became limited inducing formation of Coppice-like dunes, even though aeolian losses were regularly replenished by marine import during sand flat flooding. Long dune rows developed for high sediment supply scenarios which occurred for deep groundwater levels. Furthermore, a threshold depth appears to exist at which the groundwater level starts to affect dune development on the inlet sand flat. The threshold can vary spatially depending on external conditions such as topography. On sand flats close to inlets, groundwater is capable of introducing spatial variability in dune growth, which is consistent with dune development patterns found on the Texel sand flat.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)885-897
Number of pages13
JournalOcean dynamics
Issue number7
Early online date2018
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2018


  • UT-Hybrid-D
  • Coastal dunes
  • Groundwater level
  • Sand flats
  • Cellular automata


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