Studying the effect of the Zandmotor on landscape and recreational values


An innovative coastal protection solution

Wolfs Company, in partnership with Ecorys and SWECO, was commissioned by Rijkswaterstaat to study the effects of the development of the ‘Zandmotor’ on recreational opportunities and landscape appreciation.

The ‘Zandmotor’ (Sand Motor) is a pilot for an innovative way of coastal protection and maintenance, where nature itself helps protect against the sea and at the same time temporarily creates extra area for nature and recreation. The Zandmotor was developed by depositing a large amount of sand off the coast of Hoek van Holland, which was subsequently spread by waves, currents and wind in such a way that the coast grows naturally. This growth creates a large buffer of sand in the coastal foundation, which forms a buffer against the rise in sea level and natural subsidence. In this way it contributes to the long-term safety of the coast, while at the same also creating space for nature and recreation.

Using social media data to identify the effect of an intervention

In this project we used the social media platform Flickr to gain insight into landscape appreciation and recreational opportunities on the coast of Hoek van Holland, before and after the development of the Zandmotor. Additionally, we also compared the Zandmotor coastal zone with other coastal zones along the west coast of the Netherlands. Flickr’s database contains more than 100 million publicly available photos and is often used as a data source for mapping people’s behavior and preferences, because Flickr is one of the few platforms to include both the photos themselves as well as associated data (where is the photo made publicly available, by whom, and when).

A number of clear patterns emerged from the social media analysis, which indicated that the construction of the Zandmotor has had a measurable effect on recreation and landscape participation. Particularly in the years immediately after the construction of the Zandmotor, there was a significant increase in the popularity of the Zandmotor coastal zone compared to other coastal zones. Especially in terms of nature experience, the popularity of this stretch of coast increased significantly in the first period after development. Interestingly, recreational use of the coastal zone declined initially but has recovered in recent years.

This study highlighted the practical utilization of a social media analysis, and the results of this study could prove helpful in exporting the concept of the Zandmotor to sandy beaches in other countries.