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SENSE scientist Ton Hoitink (WUR) has won a Vici grant of 1.5 milion euros. Hoitink is researching how the loss of a foreshore disrupts the sediment balance in deltas.
The Vici grant, one of the biggest personal scientific awards in the Netherlands, is part of the Innovational Research Incentives Scheme of the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO). With the 1.5-million-euro award, the researchers can develop their own line of research in the next five years and create a research group.
Deltas connect a river with the sea in an area where sand, sludge and clay can settle. Foreshores in river deltas – those are the shallow areas that are submerged during part of the tidal cycle – are losing ground because of land reclamation and the rise of the sea level. ‘This alters the tides in the delta, and the transport paths of sand, sludge and clay change,’ explained Ton Hoitink of Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management. ‘This then leads to problems such as sedimentation in waterways, river bank erosion and a very high level of turbidity.’ River bank erosion and increased sedimentation in waterways increase the chance of flooding. A higher turbidity lowers the natural values in a delta and can hinder ships if it turns into liquid mud. Hoitink: ‘We don’t yet understand the physical mechanisms of these current, urgent problems and we want to get more insight into these mechanisms. This insight can then be translated into guidelines for a sustainable design of waterways and foreshores aimed at preventing flooding, facilitating shipping and improving the aquatic conditions that are decisive for ecosystems.’