Developing a geophysical methodology for soil inventory in the western Belgian coastal plain

Prof. dr. ir. Marc Van Meirvenne

Doctoral researcher:
Samuël Delefortrie

The coastal plain of Belgium is situated along the very southern part of the North Sea and consists of polders, dunes and a wide shore. Most of the Belgian coastal plain bears a thick Holocene sequence in which significant events of coastal development are recorded. The sequence is made up of alternating clastic and biogenic layers that are not consolidated. Besides the influence of natural processes on the shallow subsurface, human intervention has also been established as an important factor. Both natural and human influences have led to a heterogeneous subsurface and it is this heterogeneity that severely complicates subsurface investigation by classical means such as hand augering. Application of geophysical techniques can provide high spatial resolution data and fast data collection. Thus they may shed new light in pedological, geological and archaeological investigations.
Use of electromagnetic induction (EMI) and ground penetration radar (GPR) in the Belgian coastal plain is researched. These techniques allow for mobile configurations, are non-invasive and are viable for shallow subsurface investigation of unconsolidated sediments. Specifically, attention will go to limiting factors (such as high salinity), discernment of the various deposits (such as peat) and combination of sensor data.

The objectives of this project are:

- Evaluating effect of salinity on geophysical signatures of unconsolidated sediments
- Assessing viability of EMI and GPR in discernment of peat
- Evaluating geophysical signatures of the ‘lost villages’ in the Zwin area
- Developing and evaluating a geophysical methodology to study submerged landscapes in the Belgian coastal plain

This project is in collaboration with the project ‘Medieval Bruges and its associated ports. A landscape-archaeological approach to the Zwin-debate’