A Mega-Nourishment (Sand Motor) Affects Landscape Diversity of Subtidal Benthic Fauna

Peter M.J. Herman*, Simeon Moons, Jeroen W.M. Wijsman, Arjen P. Luijendijk, Tom Ysebaert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The Sand Motor is a very large (20 million m3) nourishment constructed along the coast in The Netherlands. The huge volume of sand is redistributed along the coast by natural forces stemming from tidal currents and waves. For environmental evaluation of this large construction, the benthic subtidal fauna has been sampled prior to the construction of the Sand Motor, and at 1, 2, 4, and 6 years after construction. Although some significant differences between years were detected, overall the total density, total biomass and average number of species per sample were surprisingly constant over this time period. However, large differences were found in the species accumulation curves over samples, and in the rank-biomass and rank-abundance plots. These were related to two important trends in the communities. First, the invasive mollusk Ensis leei, the biomass dominant in the years before construction of the Sand Motor, dwindled in importance in later years. Recruitment of the species failed, but it is unclear whether, and how, this is related to the construction of the Sand Motor. Second, the correlation structure between depth, grain size, bottom shear stress due to waves and currents, which is very tight along a linear coast, was disrupted by the Sand Motor. The community composition was shown to depend strongly on these physical factors. The nature of the dependencies did not change, but the range of different combinations of factors after construction of the Sand Motor was widely larger than before. Although samples had similar number of species per sample before and after construction, the average difference between samples after construction was much larger than before. The Sand Motor is a very large construction, leading to loss of a substantial area (order 100 ha) of submarine area, which recovers at a long time scale. Total disturbance of benthos by burial, expressed as area(time before full recovery) was shown to be similar for the Sand Motor and for other coastal nourishment schemes when expressed per unit volume of sediment applied. However, in contrast to beach and shoreface nourishments, the Sand Motor led to a habitat diversification in the coastal zone.

Original languageEnglish
Article number643674
JournalFrontiers in Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 24 May 2021


  • benthos
  • community
  • disturbance
  • nourishment
  • recovery
  • sand motor
  • sediment


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