The lower shoreface of the Dutch coast – An overview

Ad van der Spek*, Jebbe van der Werf, Albert Oost, Tommer Vermaas, Bart Grasmeijer, Reinier Schrijvershof

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The lower shoreface, defined here as between about 8 and 20 m water depth, forms the transition between the inner shelf and upper shoreface. Knowledge of lower shoreface hydro- and morphodynamics is essential for coastal management and maintenance.

The shoreface of the Dutch coast is a complex area. It is partly determined by its evolution in the past, whereas present-day processes are influencing or even changing it. The present situation and large-scale anthropogenic supply of sediment will determine its future development.

The shoreface morphology varies along the Dutch coast, depending on the coastal slope and superposition of ridges (central Holland coast) and ebb-tidal deltas (Delta area, Wadden Sea). The architecture of the shoreface-connected ridges off the central Holland coast indicates that they are still active today. The development of most ebb-tidal deltas along the Dutch coast is largely influenced by interventions in the tidal inlets and tidal basins.

The Kustgenese 2.0 Lower Shoreface project comprised both field data collection in 2017 and 2018 and numerical modelling. Field data was collected in study areas at Ameland Inlet, Terschelling and Noordwijk. Sediment cores and multibeam sonar surveys provided information on the Holocene deposits, geomorphology and sediments. Instrumented frames placed at the seabed collected a wealth of process data.

The variation in shoreface composition and morphology is larger than anticipated previously. In general, the lower part of the shoreface consists of older Holocene deposits overlain by an active sand layer that responds to variations in tidal, wave and wind conditions. The deposits at the lower shoreface of Terschelling were comparable to the ebb-delta channel deposits at the ebb-delta front at Ameland Inlet. At Noordwijk, deposits of the Late-Holocene prograded barrier shoreface overlie those of back-barrier tidal channels and river channels. The large-scale morphology of the lower shoreface seems rather stable. Decadal time series show an erosional trend. Small-scale bedforms can change over an interval of days to weeks.

The multibeam surveys revealed unexpected details such as geology-based shoreface irregularities between −12m and −18m that probably act as conduits for downslope currents and sand transport. After a high-energy wave event, more erosional features were discovered that suggest seaward sand transport.

Measured orbital velocities at the seabed at 14–16 m depth reached 1.5 m per second under high-wave events. This caused high sediment mobility under sheet-flow conditions with abundant sediment suspension. It is not clear what this means for the net sand transport at the lower shoreface.

The modelled alongshore-directed sand transport is much larger than the cross-shore transport. The largest transports at the 20m depth contour occurs along the northern part of the Holland coast. Here, transport is parallel to the coast or directed to deeper water. Transports at 20 m depth along the other parts of the coast are directed to shallower water.

The modelled total landward sand transport over the −20m contour is c. 4 million m3 per year and c. 7 million m3 per year over the −16m contour. This suggests a yearly erosion of c. 4 million m3 in-between, in case of no alongshore transport gradients.

The results of the sand transport calculations imply a net landward sediment transfer that needs to be further tested against the morphological changes in the shoreface.
Original languageEnglish
Article number106367
Number of pages28
JournalOcean & coastal management
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2022


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