Project Summary


Problems to be solved

Long stretches of the European coastline are threatened by erosion and flooding and, at the same time, their economic importance grows, due to the fact that population concentrate in coastal areas; the consequent proliferation of hard defence structures has reached a level that might result in relevant environmental implications.

Coastal defence structures are designed by transposing at a lower scale techniques and results mainly derived for breakwaters, with little attention paid to the fact that wave load parameters and tidal range do not scale down. In particular, these structures are low and result severely overtopped at high tide and frequently submerged, causing currents and relevant beach modifications.

As long as hydrodynamic, morphodynamic and ecological problems posed by Low Crested Structures (LCS) are not clarified, unsuccessful design will be frequent (insufficient sand retention, erosion in gaps or at roundheads, etc.) or unexpected ecological negative effects could take place (invading species) or positive effects could be not properly accounted for (rocky breeding environment for fishes, water oxygenation).

Scientific objectives and approach

The project aims to promote effective and environmentally compatible design of LCS to defend European shores against coastal erosion and preserve the littoral environment as well as the coast economic development. DELOS offers the possibility to achieve this aim through integrated collaboration among engineers, coastal oceanographers, marine ecologists, economists and political institutions, involving 18 partners from 7 European countries and end users.

Specific objectives and methods of DELOS are:

  1. to provide an inventory of existing LCS and a literature based description of their effects;
  2. to analyse LCS hydrodynamics and stability as well as their effects on beach morphology by observation on sites, by laboratory experiments and numerical modelling;
  3. to investigate the impacts of LCS on biodiversity and functioning of coastal assemblages by observations and field experiments at a range of spatial (local, regional and European) and temporal scales (months to years) as well as in relation to different environmental conditions;
  4. to develop a general methodology to quantify benefits for “Integrated Coastal Zone Management” based on Contingent Valuation monetary values obtained in different European countries;
  5. to provide local authorities with validated operational guidelines for the design of LCS based on the achieved knowledge of LCS hydrodynamics and stability, water circulation, beach morphology, impacts on coastal assemblages, human perception and related economic effects. Guidelines will be verified by application to selected case studies and discussion with end users.

Expected impacts

The societal impact of DELOS will be felt in many sectors, including the civil engineering community, tourist industry and recreational activities, coastal environmental authorities, consultancy organisations advising the management of the coastal area and its living resources, and local political, regulatory and enforcement authorities.

DELOS primary contributions to Community social objectives are:

  1. Preservation, protection and improvement of coastal environments;
  2. Improvement of the quality of life, health and safety in coastal areas;
  3. Improvement of skills and of employment prospects within the Community.

Short to medium term employment benefits are also expected as a consequence of economic benefits: European beaches are a major financial asset, which is strictly related to the quality and integrity of the beaches themselves that DELOS aims to guarantee through the identification of secure and environmentally friendly design guidelines for coastal defence systems.

In order to assure the up-take of information by potential users and the implementation of the design guidelines, DELOS will involve end-user representatives from the very beginning of the project. The methodologies and tools developed will contribute to improve the design of coastal defence structures and will help the authorities to implement national and EU environmental regulations.



Last update:13/04/04