Journal of Coastal Conservation

, Volume 4, Issue 2, pp 127–134 | Cite as

Coastline management in The Netherlands: human use versus natural dynamics

Special Feature


The boundary between land and sea in The Netherlands changes continuously. Every kilometre of the present position of the Dutch sandy coastline is the result of the interface between natural dynamics initiated by the sea and man-made action on land.

Before 1990, each year ca. 20 ha of dunes disappeared through coastal retreat. In 1990 the Dutch government decided to stop any further long-term coastal recession and chose for ‘dynamic preservation’, which primarily aims, at ensuring safety against flooding and sustainable preservation of the values and interests attached to the dunes and beaches.

Five years later, a first review of the benefits and bottlenecks of the new coastal defence policy could be presented. The overall conclusion is that the 1990-choice for dynamic preservation was right. The considerable losses of dunes and beaches do not occur any longer. Sand nourishment is an effective method of coastline maintenance, which also serves the functions of the beach and dune area for human society.

However, serious erosion of the deeper part of the shoreface threatens the coastline of the 21st century. Nearly a doubling of the nourishment volume is necessary to prevent a renewed landward shift of the coastline. An anticipated accelerated sea level rise (ca. 60 cm/century) will increase the sand losses by another 25%.

Plans are being finalized for large-scale land reclamation in front of the coastline as an answer to growing spatial problems on land. In other plans polders, now safely protected by sea dikes, will be returned to the sea in order to restore ecologically valuable salt marshes and mud flats.

The position of the coastline will continue to change in the coming decades. Besides natural dynamics, human use of the coastal zone will certainly affect this process: measures to maintain the coastline at its 1990 position need to be seen in perspective: the coastline as a part of the coastalzone.


Beach nourishment Dune Dynamic preservation Erosion Policy Salt marsh 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Anon. 1990.A new coastal defence policy for the Netherlands. Ministry of Transport and Public Works, The Hague.Google Scholar
  2. Anon. 1992.Agenda 21, Chapter 17: Protection of the oceans, seas and coastal areas and the protection, use and development of their living resources. UNCED, Rio de Janeiro.Google Scholar
  3. Anon. 1996a.Balancing the coast 1995. Ministry of Transport and Public Works, The Hague. (In Dutch.)Google Scholar
  4. Anon. 1996b.Compensating Nature Westerschelde. Report 682/CE96/1036/11953, Bestuurlijk Overleg Westerschelde (BOW). Heidemij advies, Resource Analysis and Rijkswaterstaat, National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management/RIKZ, Middelburg. (In Dutch.)Google Scholar
  5. Bijlsma, L., Hillen, R. & Misdorp, R. 1993. Changing coastal zones; chances for sustainable development.Proceedings of the Coastal zone 1993 Conference. New Orleans, LA.Google Scholar
  6. de Ruig, J.H.M. 1995.The coast in perspective. Report RIKZ/95-005, Rijkswaterstaat, National Institute for Coastal and Marine Management/RIKZ, The Hague. (In Dutch.)Google Scholar
  7. de Ruig, J.H.M. & Hillen, R. 1997. Developments in Dutch coastline management: Conclusions from the second governmental coastal report.J Coastal Conserv. 3: 203–210.Google Scholar
  8. Hillen, R. & De Haan, Tj. 1993. Developments and implementation of the coastal defence policy for the Netherlands. In: Hillen, R. & Verhagen, H.J. (eds.),Coastlines of the southern North Sea, pp. 118–201. American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, NY.Google Scholar
  9. Hillen, R. & Roelse, P. 1995. Dynamic preservation of the coastline in the Netherlands.J. Coast. Conserv. 1: 17–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Misdorp, R. & Terwindt, J. 1997. Coastal zone management: experiences in The Netherlands. In:Proceedings CZM Conference. IOC/UNESCO, Karachi.Google Scholar
  11. van Heuvel, Tj. & Hillen, R. 1994. Coastline management with GIS in the Netherlands. In:EARSeL Workshop on remote sensing and GIS for coastal zone management, pp. 155–164. Delft.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© EUCC 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.National Institute of Coastal and Marine ManagementRijkswaterstaatThe HagueThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations