The Coastbusters project tests the capacity and added value of certain biological organisms for coastal defense. A stronger and more resilient coast will also have a positive impact on nature and biodiversity in the North Sea.
In progress
Jan 2017 - Jan 2030
DBC project

Towards a more natural form of coastal zone management

Coastal areas are under increasing pressure from climate change: sea levels are rising, storms are becoming more frequent and beach erosion is increasing. In addition, human activities also have an impact on the coast. As a result, we increasingly need to take measures to adequately protect our coasts.

Traditional techniques such as sea walls and dikes can become unsustainable in the long term due to, among other things, constant maintenance, the increasing risk of flooding and undesirable ecological side effects. That is why people are increasingly looking at alternatives such as nature-inspired designs (NID).

The aim is to create healthy ecosystems and to involve nature as much as possible in the protection of the coast. Such solutions also help improve water quality and increase biodiversity, and have a positive impact on soil and overall nature conservation.

The Coastbusters partners are investigating what natural measures are possible in the Belgian part of the North Sea, with the aim of further deepening that knowledge and exporting it internationally in order to achieve a more natural form of coastal protection worldwide.

The Coastbusters work with biobuilders: plant and animal species that have a positive influence on their environment and can build biogenic reefs. These biogenic reefs can avoid erosion and contribute to coastal defense

coastbusters logo


Coastbusters is an umbrella concept within which various projects are conducted that conduct research into nature-inspired solutions to protect the coast. An overview of the different projects that are currently underway or have meanwhile been completed can be found below:

Biogenic reefs

This sub-project investigated the viability of three different reef concepts off the Belgian coast. Three important species groups which naturally occur in the North Sea and stabilise the sediment were examined: seagrass and seaweed; blue mussel (Mytilus edulis); and sandstone worm (Lanice conchilega).

Three common goals were identified:

  • The organisms must survive the dynamic conditions of the marine environment and maintain their ecological functions; 
  • The biogenic reef must be stable and provide ecological added value within the local coastal ecosystem; and
  • The biogenic reef must develop in such a way that local sedimentation and natural stabilisation of the intertidal area take place.

The project has enabled the industrial partners to valorize sustainable business opportunities and has provided the research institutions with a wealth of knowledge, placing the Flemish marine knowledge ecosystem at the forefront of this innovation field.

Duration: 2017-2020

Partners: ILVO, DEME, Jan De Nul, SIOEN Industries and eCoast

With the support of: VLAIO.

Contact: Kristien Veys

Bivalve reefs and biomaterials

This sub-project covered four research avenues: 

  • Research into marine biodegradable & sustainable (bio)materials as building blocks for coastal defense concepts. It was investigated which properties have a biofacilitating effect and how they can be integrated into anchoring systems. Based on this research, a blueprint was made for sustainable materials for coastal defense concepts. 
  • Designing a biogenic reef concept for sustainable and resilient development. The conventional setup was contrasted with the newly developed modular setup. The technical conditions for installation, maintenance & demolition, as well as the safety of materials, structures and operations, were taken into account. 
  • To monitor the evolution of the biogenic reef, the reef must be closely observed and studied. For this purpose, a high-quality, scientifically based monitoring roadmap was developed that can be applied under various circumstances (worldwide) for both growth and decline of the reef. 
  • The final research avenue concerned the preconditions and ecosystem services to valorize the added value of the concept for the ecosystem. Structural and functional indicators were identified and validated to evaluate the functional changes of the seabed ecosystem. 

The results of this project were presented on 16 October 2023 during the Coastbusters Day. Want to learn more? Download the final report.

Duration: 2020-2023

Partners: DEME, Jan De Nul, Sioen Industries, ILVO and VLIZ

With the support of:  VLAIO

Contact: Kristien Veys


All images © Coastbusters / VLIZ / ILVO / Blue Cluster

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