About us

Together with a multidisciplinary consortium, including universities, the fishing industry, nature organisations, research institutes and the government, we are working towards a future with ecologically responsible sand extraction in the North Sea that is aligned with all stakeholders.

Boskalis
Image boskalis north sea

Our partners

The OR ELSE research programme is funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) as part of the National Science Agenda and receives co-funding from Rijkswaterstaat, Boskalis and Van Oord.

The OR ELSE project is divided into two main sets of work packages (WPs) focusing on different aspects of sand extraction in the North Sea. The WP1 series is aimed at developing fundamental knowledge about the ecological impacts of sand extraction and integrating this knowledge into a numerical model of the North Sea, known as the Digital Twin of the North Sea. The WP2 series focuses on the development of a Serious Game and stakeholder engagement in the development of a sand extraction strategy.

Overall, the project aims to combine scientific knowledge, stakeholder engagement, and simulation tools to develop a comprehensive understanding of the environmental impacts of sand extraction and facilitate decision-making processes in marine spatial planning.

WP1.0: In this work package, the Digital Twin of the North Sea is developed. It includes hydrodynamic, morphodynamic, and ecodynamic models related to sand extraction. The Digital Twin serves as a simulation platform to understand and analyze the impact of sand extraction on the marine environment.

WP1.1 to WP1.5: These work packages generate new fundamental knowledge about the environmental effects of sand extraction. Each package focuses on specific aspects such as sea currents, seabed changes, and ecosystem dynamics. The knowledge gained from these packages is integrated into WP1.0.

WP2.0: This work package guides the development of a Serious Game for sand extraction. The Serious Game is a simulation tool that engages stakeholders in the decision-making process regarding sand extraction. It also enables the study of institutional learning through the application of the Serious Game.

WP2.1: This work package focuses on collaboration, consultation, and the legal and policy frameworks of Dutch marine spatial planning. Its aim is to gain insight into how actors collaborate and make decisions within the context of marine governance.

WP2.2: In this work package, the game-based simulation platform for sand extraction is constructed. This platform is an extension of the MSP Challenge for the North Sea and specifically focuses on simulating sand extraction scenarios. It will be used to engage stakeholders in decision-making processes.

WP2.3: This work package ensures that the knowledge from OR ELSE is incorporated into the formulation of an updated sand extraction strategy by the government.

Here is a further explanation for each work package.

1.0 Modelling the North Sea

Objective
The main objective is to create a model of the North Sea, a ‘Digital Twin of the North Sea,’ specifically focusing on the effects of sand extraction. This involves combining various models to make predictions about the future state of the biophysical characteristics of the sea under different sand extraction scenarios.

Method
The Digital Twin of the North Sea at Deltares consists of various models that provide information on currents, temperature, salinity, turbidity, sediment concentrations, and water levels in the North Sea. For this project, we are adding a sand extraction module to the Digital Twin. This module consists of different models that work together. We will expand existing models or add new ones as necessary. To ensure that the models collaborate effectively, we will have regular coordination meetings with all stakeholders involved.

1.1 Water movement and fish larval transport

Goal
The aim is to determine how sand extraction alters sea currents and how this affects the transport of plaice and shrimp larvae.

Method
We will use the Deltares Dutch Continental Shelf Model (3D-DCSM-FM) to investigate changes in sea currents. We will investigate how different sand extraction scenarios change currents, salinities and turbidity compared to a reference situation. In addition, simulations will be carried out with IPCC climate scenarios for different sand extraction designs in the future. We will investigate the impact on the transport of fish larvae, taking into account their growth and development depending on temperature.

1.2 Bottom changes and sediment composition

Goal
The aim is to determine both the short-term adaptation in sediment characteristics (several years) and the long-term (decades) evolution in bottom changes in response to large-scale sand extraction.

Method
We will analyse sedimentological, morphological and biogeomorphological development in and around large-scale sand mining areas driven by changes in water movement and sediment dynamics after sand mining. For this purpose, we follow two complementary modelling routes, namely idealised exploratory models aimed at systematically unravelling the underlying physical mechanisms and detailed numerical simulation models (3D-DCSM-FM).

Publications

1.3 Algae production and zooplankton

Goal
The aim is to determine the impact of large-scale sand extraction on algae production and zooplankton, through the impact on fine suspended sediments and bio-geochemistry.

Method
We will conduct experiments focusing on how the interactions between zooplankton and phytoplankton (their food) depend on turbulence, silt content and physiological conditions of algae. These data will be used to create physiologically-based (DEB) model(s) of zooplankton dynamics to investigate how sand mining will affect algae and zooplankton, both during the excavation phase (increased turbidity) and after establishment of the mining pits, via altered transport, turbulence and turbidity.

1.4 Spatial distribution of seabed fauna

Goal
The aim is to determine how large-scale sand extraction leads to the formation of new habitat in the southern North Sea, depending on currents, morphology and sediment composition, and how this determines the distribution of benthic animals and benthic fish species in conjunction with physiological, morphological, ecological and/or behavioural characteristics.

Method
Species-habitat association models (SHA models) will be developed to quantify the relationship between species and their environment, based on data such as those collected by the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management as part of their “Sand from the Sea” programme. These models will be used to predict the expected distribution of species in and around sand extraction areas based on habitat conditions before and after sand extraction.

1.5 Shrimp and fish, growth, and population size

Goal
The aim is to determine how large-scale sand mining affects juvenile shrimp and fish performance in their first year of life, population dynamics and potential impacts on fisheries yields.

Method
Based on the results of the larval transport model (3D-DCSM-FM), we will focus on life stages after settlement. We will focus on two species: plaice and shrimp. We will study growth and survival in the first year of life using a Dynamic Energy Budget (DEB) model. We will use scenarios with and without large-scale sand mining and subsequent impacts on larval transport, temperature and production. With this, we will derive potential impacts on fisheries.

2.0 Institutional learning and change processes

Goal
The aim is to determine how digital systems enable institutional learning, reflexivity and change processes, by focusing on the development of a simulation platform for sand extraction scenarios based on Serious Games, in collaboration with the policy and stakeholder community.

Method
The research uses an action research methodology to develop a game-based simulation platform (Serious Game Sand Extraction), linked to the Digital Twin of the North Sea, and evaluate their application with (policy) practitioners. The co-design of the simulation platform is done through interactions with project partners (development of MSP Challenge Sand Extraction Edition and Digital Twin respectively) and the Stakeholder Community.

2.1 Actors in policy and management

Goal
The aim is to determine how the governance landscape of the North Sea and the changing availability of information about it is evolving so that conditions, opportunities and challenges to achieve a more dynamic approach in Dutch marine governance can be understood.

Method
The main case study concerns the increasing interaction between sand extraction and fisheries in the Dutch part of the North Sea. Through semi-structured interviews, government, business and civil society actors will be asked to reflect on their spatial perception of connections relevant to sectoral activities and information needs. In addition, observations at game situations in the Serious Game will provide insight into interactions, cooperation and deliberation between the dredging sector, fisheries, government and societal actors.

2.2 Sand extraction Serious Game

Goal
The aim is to embed geo-data, models, simulations and scenarios on sand extraction in a Serious Game environment so that planners and stakeholders can ‘play to learn’. This contributes to shared learning of planners and stakeholders about the underlying complexity and making better planning decisions.

Method
A sand extraction game is being developed in the existing MSP Challenge Simulation Platform North Sea Edition (www.mspchallenge.info). In the interactive simulation, spatial planners and stakeholders see the entire sea area and review different data layers. They develop plans for future use of the sea over a period of several decades. The consequences of decisions for energy, shipping and the marine environment are simulated and visualised in indicators.

2.3 Developing strategy for sand extraction

Goal
The aim is to develop an ecosystem-based sand extraction strategy to inform the next policy cycle for the National Water Plan 2028-2033.

Method
We will evaluate the scientific results of the PhD studies and postdocs in OR ELSE into ecosystem service trade-off indicators that will be implemented in the Serious Game dashboard (WP2.2) and contribute to the planning process for a sand extraction strategy in the Netherlands. To ensure maximum uptake of our work, we will participate in relevant participatory processes to ensure that the knowledge from OR ELSE is taken into account when the government formulates an updated sand extraction strategy.

organogram-or-else

Meet our team

OR ELSE’s research team consists of experts in the field of ecologically sound sand extraction in coordination with other interests in the North Sea.

Management team

Martin-Baptist
Martin Baptist
Project manager strategy development for sand extraction
Wageningen Marine Research
Marcel Rozemeijer
Marcel Rozemeijer
Project manager
Wageningen Marine Research
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Michaela Scholl
Financial manager
Wageningen Marine Research

Project managers

Arjen Luijendijk
Arjen Luijendijk
Project manager WP1.0
Deltares & TU Delft
Karline Soetaert
Karline Soetaert
Professor and project manager WP1.3
NIOZ
Wouter-Kranenburg
Wouter Kranenburg
Co-project manager WP1.1
TU Delft
Geert Aarts
Geert Aarts
Project manager WP1.4
Wageningen Marine Research
Karen van de Wolfshaar
Karen van de Wolfshaar
Project manager WP1.5
Wageningen Marine Research
Hilde Toonen
Hilde Toonen
Project manager WP2.0 & 2.1
Wageningen University - Environmental policy
Jan Jaap Poos
Jan Jaap Poos
Co-project manager WP 1.4
Wageningen University - Aquaculture and fisheries
Pieter-Roos
Pieter Roos
Project manager WP1.2
UTwente
Johan van der Molen
Johan van der Molen
Co-project manager WP1.3
NIOZ
Jaap van der Meer
Jaap van der Meer
Professor WP1.4 & 1.5
Wageningen University- Aquaculture and fisheries
Julie Pietrzak
Julie Pietrzak
Professor en project manager WP1.1
TU Delft
Suzanne Hulscher
Suzanne Hulscher
Professor WP1.2
UTwente
Stefan Aarninkhof
Stefan Aarninkhof
Professor WP1.1
TU Delft
Dick van Oevelen
Dick van Oevelen
Co-project manager WP1.3
NIOZ
Bas Borsje
Bas Borsje
Co-project manager WP1.3
Utwente
Cindy van Damme
Cindy van Damme
WP1.1
Wageningen Marine Research
Simon Bush
Simon Bush
Professor WP 2.0 & 2.1
Wageningen University - Environmental policy
David Goldsborough
David Goldsborough
Co-project manager WP2.3
Hogeschool Van Hall Larenstein

Researchers

Elaine Mumford
Elaine Mumford
Actors in policy and governance
PhD Wageningen University
Maria Pafi
Maria Pafi
Institutional learning and processes of change
Postdoc Wageningen University
Henrique Guarneri_
Henrique Guarneri
Modeling of the North Sea
Postdoc TU Delft
Jana Schultz
Jana Schultz
Spatial distribution of seabed fauna
PhD Wageningen University
Alejandra-Ortiz-Duran
Alejandra Ortiz Duran
Shrimp and fish, growth and population size
PhD Wageningen University
Wout Ploeg
Wout Ploeg
Soil changes and sediment composition
PhD UTwente
Stef Gerard
Stef Gerard
Algae production and zooplankton
PhD NIOZ
Lucas Warmuth
Water movement and fish larvae transport
PhD TU Delft
Mohammad-Daliri
Mohammad Daliri
Modeling of algae and zooplankton
Postdoc NIOZ

Serious game developers

Igor Mayer
Igor Mayer
Projectleider WP2.2
Breda University of Applied Sciences
Harald Warmelink
Harald Warmelink
Co-project manager WP2.2
Breda University of Applied Sciences
Magali Patrocínio Gonçalves
Magali Patrocínio Gonçalves
Programmer WP2.2
Breda University of Applied Sciences
Carlos Santos
Carlos Santos
Programmer WP2.2
Breda University of Applied Sciences

Communicatie

Petra-Damsma
Petra Damsma
Communications
The North Sea Foundation
Hester Heijmans
Hester Heijmans
Communications
The North Sea Foundation