|European Marine Sand and Gravel Resources: Evaluation and environmental impacts of extraction - an introduction|
|Bonne, W.M.I. (2010). European Marine Sand and Gravel Resources: Evaluation and environmental impacts of extraction - an introduction. J. Coast. Res. SI 51: i-vi|
|In: Journal of Coastal Research. Coastal Education and Research Foundation: Fort Lauderdale. ISSN 0749-0208, more|
Environmental impact; Marine
Marine aggregates (sand and gravel) have emerged as a strategic mineral resource; this is due to an increasing general demand and to stricter regulations on the exploitation of landwon aggregates, in EU Member States. Annually, approx. 40 million m3 of marine sand and gravel are extracted, alone, from the North European inner (<60m water depth) continental shelf (www.sandandgravel.com/extraction). In the near future, the extraction will increase significantly, to provide vast quantities of material needed for the realisation of large-scale infrastructure projects, planned for Europe’s coastal areas; this is combined with the burgeoning general urbanisation of the coastal zone. At the same time, European coastal zones are under increasing pressure from coastal erosion. Thus, beach replenishment and other coastal defence schemes, requiring large quantities of suitable aggregate material, are necessary to manage such coastal retreat and accommodate the development (SELBY and OOMS, 1996; HUMPHREYS et al., 1996).
Such increasing demand, together with the conservation of coastal ecosystems and diverse stakeholders’ interests, require that resource sustainability, environmental prudence and careful management are crucial components of the practice and regulation of marine aggregate operations. There is an urgent need for integrated and coherent approaches to the effective prospecting of commercially-viable marine sand and gravel deposits, the development of a science-based approach to their sustainable management, together with an environmental impact assessment of their exploitation. Such objectives require an interdisciplinary approach, to develop a thorough understanding of the sedimentary, hydrodynamic and ecological conditions of the inner continental shelf and adjacent coasts. Likewise, the use of ‘state-of-the-art’ approaches and instrumentation is needed.
The main objectives of the RTN project EUMARSAND were: (a) to train young European researchers in individual research approaches; and (b) to provide them with an integrated and balanced view of the diverse and complex issues involved, through the application of a wide range of scientific approaches. As such, close co-operation between marine geologists, biologists, hydrodynamic and morphodynamic modellers and coastal engineers was established. The task of such a grouping was to integrate the research approaches involved in marine aggregate prospecting. Likewise, the undertaking of the assessment of the environmental impacts of offshore mining activities, using ‘state-of-the-art’ approaches and instrumentation.
Nine Partners, from 8 countries, have been involved in the project, as listed in Table 1.