Management, Research and Budgeting of Aggregates in Shelf Seas related to End-users

Supported through the Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO)


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Welcome to the Marebasse home page. Feel free to surf around !


            Gravel beds in the Hinder Banken region


The research project frames into the strategic research on marine ecosystems and the sustainable management of the North Sea with priority towards the theme ‘Evaluation of sedimentary systems and the development of new evaluation technologies within the view of a sustainable management of the Belgian exclusive economic zone (EEZ)’. An evaluation of sedimentary systems calls for the development of appropriate tools and strategies that are efficient and flexible enough to meet future needs regarding the exploitation of the EEZ. Within the concept of a ‘sustainable management’, the research proposal is relevant towards different uses of the sea such as marine aggregate extraction, dredging/dumping operations and the implantation of windmill farms, however, with the main emphasis on the sediments themselves.

Duration of the project: 01/04/2002 – 30/03/2006 (extended up to 30/09/2006)

Key words: marine aggregates; environmental (impact) assessment; sediment transport modelling; geo-acoustical techniques; seafloor classification

Clusters: Under the embrella SUMANOS ("Sustainable Management of the North Sea"), the Marebasse project is clustered to the project Balans (“Balancing Impacts of Human Activities in the North Sea”; Maes et al.) and Trophos (“Higher trophic levels in the Southern North Sea”, Vincx et al.). An overarching workshop will be held (November 23-24, 2006).


Description of the project


The Marebasse project is essentially meant to set up an integrated assessment framework for marine sediments. This framework is regarded necessary to be able to answer management/policy questions on how a sustainable exploitation of marine resources should be viewed and what approaches should be envisaged. This implies that essentially an increase of knowledge is necessary on the level of the sediments themselves and their distribution, but also on the dynamical environment. Ideally, this calls for a holistic approach, but it is clear that time and resources impose constraints. Still, nowadays instrumentation and techniques in combination with the necessary ‘know-how’ can largely overcome this discrepancy.

The project is structured around a three-tiered approach encompassing three spatial scales: broad-based, regional and site-specific. Fieldwork programmes will be the focal point of the regional and site-specific research, however with a coupling towards the broad-based approach.

An overview of the different project components is further schematically represented including the interaction between the different partners.

Link international programmes

On an international level, the project is complementary to the Fifth Framework Research Training Network EUMARSAND (European Marine Sand and Gravel Resources). The project is set-up to address, on a European level, the urgent need for integrated and coherent approaches regarding marine aggregates. However, the main objective of the programme is to train young European researchers, to a high level, in the individual research approaches needed and to provide them with an integrated and balanced view of the diverse and difficult issues involved. 

Partnership: Fundacion AZTI, Spain (coordination); University of Southampton, United Kingdom; Ghent University RCMG, Belgium, National & Kapodistrian University of Athens, Greece; University of the Aegean, Greece; Maritime Institute in Gdansk, Poland; Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale, France; Universiteit Twente, The Netherlands and Christian-Albrechts-Universitaet zu Kiel, Germany.

The Marebasse results are being validated and refined in the framework of the EU-Interreg IIIb project MESH (Development of a framework for Mapping European Seabed Habitats, 2003-2007). This project aims at producing the first seabed habitat map of NW Europe together with the development of international standards and protocols for seabed mapping. Partnership: Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC, coordination) (UK); Ghent University (B); Ifremer (FR); Marine Institute (IRL); Alterra-Texel (NL); TNO Environment, Energy and Process Innovation (NL); Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) (UK); Department for Agriculture and Rural Development, Northern Ireland (DARD) (UK); English Nature (UK); Envision Mapping Ltd (UK); National Museums and Galleries of Wales (NMGW) (UK); Natural Environment Research Council (British Geological Survey) (BGS) (UK). More info:


Expected results and/or products

As the integration and the valorisation/exploitation of the research results are an inherent component of the Marebasse project, high-quality end products and strategies are aimed at. Their value will be largely upgraded through the synergy with the EU-project Eumarsand. The main deliverables can be summarised as follows:

·  Review of existing knowledge on marine sediments taking into account the marine aggregate needs, dredging issues and a European review on environmental (impact) assessments

·  2D sediment transport model of the Belgian continental shelf (BCS) as an evaluation tool for the sustainable management of the EEZ

·  Definition of optimised environmental assessments for a typical mud, sand and gravel environment (confined to the Belgian continental shelf)

·  Development of environmental assessment evaluation tools and strategies (the definition of unambiguous acoustical seabed classes for the range of sediment types found on the Belgian continental shelf; the set-up of a reference manual of the acoustic facies on a BCS level including their eco-morphological interpretation; set-up and tuning of a 3D sediment transport model)

·  Definition of optimised environmental impact assessments (confined to the Kwinte Bank, the sandbank most affected by sand extraction)

·  Set-up of an integrated assessment framework for the Belgian marine aggregates including a mapping of the distribution of the surficial sediments of the Belgian continental shelf

·  Targeted resource mapping according to end-users’ needs together with a multi-user GIS of Belgian marine aggregates

·  Development of targeted environmental assessments tools and strategies

·  Monitoring and Research protocols and guidelines


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Created: September 24, 2002; Last updated: april 26, 2006.