Sandy beaches crave cloudy waters

Image: The water in the West Scheldt is not cloudy enough. Source: Basemaps, Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, GIS user community.

Beyond the embankments on the coast you will find sandbanks. These accumulations of sand are submerged at high tide, but dry at low tide. They play an important role in biodiversity. For example, birds land on it while searching for food. It also protects residents of coastal areas by reducing incoming waves. Therefore, people and animals benefit from the presence of sandbanks.

One Royal Netherlands Institute for Marine Research has conducted research in forty coastal areas around the world. The team compared satellite images of sandbanks over 25 years with the turbidity associated with seawater. Scientists believed that every coastal area needs a minimum level of turbid water to maintain biodiversity. If the seawater is cloudy enough, a sandbank will grow. This is because turbid water takes sand with it and leaves it on the sandbanks.

However, there are coastal areas where the water is not cloudy enough. Results? The sea washes away the sand banks and people and animals suffer as a result. According to researchers, this is the case in the Western Scheldt region, for example. Dredging around the port of Antwerp has removed a lot of sand from the water there. As a result, the coastal areas of the West Scheldt are at risk of extinction. Researchers say the situation at Delta Works, a project protecting the Netherlands from floods, is also critical.

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Megan Vasquez

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