Shifting Sands: Mining the Seabed for Sand and Gravel for Use in Construction Is a Major Industry in the UK. but While the Official Line from the Government and the Mining Industry Is That Damage Is Inconsequential, Environmental Groups Are Voicing Concerns about the Impact on Sea Defences, Fish Stocks and Fragile Coastal Habitats. Mark Rowe Dives into the Increasingly Fractious Debate

By Rowe, Mark | Geographical, March 2008 | Go to article overview

Shifting Sands: Mining the Seabed for Sand and Gravel for Use in Construction Is a Major Industry in the UK. but While the Official Line from the Government and the Mining Industry Is That Damage Is Inconsequential, Environmental Groups Are Voicing Concerns about the Impact on Sea Defences, Fish Stocks and Fragile Coastal Habitats. Mark Rowe Dives into the Increasingly Fractious Debate


Rowe, Mark, Geographical


[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

Concrete, an alien might reasonably conclude, is as indispensable to life on Earth as oxygen and water. In the UK alone, our annual demand for aggregates, which are a vital ingredient for the production of concrete, adds up to 272 million tonnes, the equivalent of four tonnes per person. To meet this mind-boggling demand, the construction industry turns to three sources of aggregate: land quarries; secondary, or recycled aggregate; and, increasingly, the offshore sand and gravel resources that lie beneath our seas.

Last year, 24.8 million tonnes of coarse gravel and fine sand were removed from the seabed off England and Wales, providing around 17 per cent of the sand and gravel needs of the two nations, and six per cent of Britain's total primary aggregate needs.

Although the annual turnover of the marine aggregate industry is a modest 250million [pounds sterling], the scale of demand--augmented by huge projects such as the Thames Gateway development and the London Olympics--is causing disquiet among environmentalists, who argue that understanding the impacts of extracting aggregates is vital if our marine environment is to be protected from long-term or irreversible damage.

Marinet, a marine arm of Friends of the Earth (FOE), argues that aggregate dredging imperils sensitive coastal habitats such as salt marshes, sand dune systems and sand cliffs, and even inland habitats that are vulnerable to coastal erosion. 'Sandbanks are major players in the wave regime', says Marinet's Stephen Eades.' The height of the sandbank can determine the height and strength of waves. The wave regime starts far out to sea, and sandbanks acts as a buffer. If the sandbanks are disappearing, then the wave regime intensifies and erosion around the coast becomes greater.'

[ILLUSTRATIONS OMITTED]

Critics say the erosion and emaciation of sandbanks off the Norfolk and Suffolk coasts are linked to dredging, and that the industry is wasteful in its approach. According to Mariner, just over half of the dredged material is rejected because it's silt or the wrong size. Of the 24.8 million tonnes landed last year, 13.4 million tonnes was landed in UK ports and went on to supply the construction industry. A further 4.2 million tonnes was placed on the shoreline to replenish holiday beaches damaged by erosion--often, says Marinet, caused by dredging--and 6.7 million tonnes was taken to Dutch and Belgian North Sea ports. 'This is an astonishing practice,' says Eades. 'The Netherlands and Belgium don't allow the commercial exploitation of the offshore seabed for aggregate materials within 25 kilometres of their shoreline, so why should the UK?'

HABITAT EROSION

But despite FoE's concerns, the environmental impacts of dredging remain uncertain. 'We don't really know quite what's going to happen; says Jolyon Chesworth, conservation manager of the South East Marine Programme for the Wildlife Trusts. 'One of our biggest issues is recovery. Sandy environments appear to recover within three to four years--because they are mobile and dynamic--but in the gravel environments, the pits and furrows left by the dredgers can remain for 20 years or even be permanent.'

The long-term impact is evident at Formby on Merseyside, where dredging 100 years ago has led to an incremental loss of 400 metres of coastline. During the early 20th century, new'training walls'--barriers to create a deeper channel for larger ships moving along the Mersey - were dredged up. While natural sand movement north of Formby continued, this was no longer replenished from the south. According to Andrew Brockbank, property manager for the National Trust, which owns 220 hectares of Formby, four metres of coastline are reclaimed by the sea there each year. 'Formby Point was once truly a point--now it's more flattened,' he says.

The sand dunes of Merseyside's Sefton Coast are the fourth largest in the British Isles and are part of a wider Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation, a nationally important habitat for the natterjack toad and sand lizards, which live in the edge of the dune system. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Shifting Sands: Mining the Seabed for Sand and Gravel for Use in Construction Is a Major Industry in the UK. but While the Official Line from the Government and the Mining Industry Is That Damage Is Inconsequential, Environmental Groups Are Voicing Concerns about the Impact on Sea Defences, Fish Stocks and Fragile Coastal Habitats. Mark Rowe Dives into the Increasingly Fractious Debate
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.