Groynes at the Baltic coast

Groynes are cross-shore structures designed to reduce longshore transport on open beaches or to deflect nearshore currents within an estuary. On an open beach they are normally built as a series to influence a long section of shoreline that has been nourished or is managed by recycling. In an estuary they may be single structures.

Groynes reduce longshore transport by trapping beach material and causing the beach orientation to change relative to the dominant wave directions. They mainly influence bedload transport and are most effective on shingle or gravel beaches. Sand is carried in temporary suspension during higher energy wave or current conditions and will therefore tend to be carried over or around any cross-shore structures. Groynes can also be used successfully in estuaries to alter nearshore tidal flow patterns.

Technical feasibility

Groynes can be made from different material. Rock is often favoured as the construction material, but timber or gabions can be used for temporary structures of varying life expectancies (timber: 10-25 years, gabions: 1-5 years). Rock groynes have the advantages of simple construction, long-term durability and ability to absorb some wave energy due to their semi-permeable nature. Wooden groynes are less durable and tend to reflect, rather than absorb energy.

Groynes along a duned beach must have at least a short “T” section of revetment at their landward end to prevent outflanking during storm events. The revetment will be less obtrusive if it is normally buried by the foredunes. Beach recycling or nourishment is normally required to maximise the effectiveness of groynes. On their own, they will cause downdrift erosion as beach material is held within the groyne bays.

Groynes can have a significant impact on the shoreline, and schemes should always be undertaken under the supervision of a competent coastal consultant. As with all rock structures on the shoreline the rock size, face slopes, crest elevation and crest width must be designed with care. Rock size is dependent on incident wave height, period and direction, structure slope, acceptance of risk, cross-sectional design, and the availability/cost of armour rock from quarries. In general 1-3 tonne rock will suffice for the landward parts of the groynes, provided that it is placed as at least a double layer, with a 1:1.5 to 1:2.5 face slope, and there is an acceptance of some risk of failure. Larger rock, probably 3-6 tonne, may be needed for the more exposed body and seaward head of each structure.

The groyne berm should be built to the anticipated crest level of the beach. The groyne berm length should equal the intended crest width of the updrift beach. The groyne should extend down the beach at a level of about 1m above the anticipated updrift shingle beach, normally at a slope of about 1:5 to 1:10. The groyne head should extend down into the sand beach, allowing for some future erosion.

As a general rule, groynes should not be built on an open beach unless construction is accompanied by a commitment to regular recycling or nourishment. Without this commitment the groynes are likely to cause downdrift erosion as the upper beach becomes starved of sediment. Where there is a plentiful sediment supply, or where downdrift erosion is not considered to be a significant issue, then recycling may not be required.

Timber groynes must be built from hardwood to endure the harsh shoreline environment. Much hardwood comes from tropical sources, making it both costly and potentially environmentally unacceptable. Timber groynes tend to reflect, rather than absorb, wave energy making them significantly less effective than rock on exposed coasts. They are also more likely to structural failure due to formation of scour channels around their seaward ends.

Political & social feasibility

Rock structures on recreational beaches should be built with a view to minimising the potential for accidents involving beach users slipping between rocks

Cost of implementation & maintenance

The costs of groynes are considered as moderate  

Ecological feasibility

Implementing groynes disrupts natural processes. The effects must be properly monitored and if possible compensated.

Key lessons learnt

Provided that groynes are used in appropriate locations, they reduce dependency on regular recycling or nourishment, and therefore reduce future disturbance of the shoreline environment. Localised accumulations of beach material will encourage new dune growth. Recycling, fencing and transplanting will help to keep the revetment sections buried, thereby enhancing habitat regeneration.

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