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New publication: Greenland and its potential role in the global sand crisis

Mette Bendixen

Nuuk. Photo:  A.Gavin Zeitz .

Nuuk. Photo: A.Gavin Zeitz.

Perspective in Nature Sustainability - open access to the article is HERE

The latest version of Nature Sustainability holds a Perspective I’ve written together with colleagues from Denmark and the US. It’s entitled “Promises and Perils of sand exploitation in Greenland” and we propose the idea that Greenland could develop its economy and create much needed prosperity while contributing to solve the global sandcrisis.

A Perspective cannot present new data, so instead we discuss the idea and the pros and cons while engaging into existing literature on the topics related to Greenland and to the sand crisis. We wrote a short comment in Science last year called “Greenland: Build an economy on sand”, and the background for the present work is based on this idea.

Greenland operates as a self-governing country under the Kingdom of Denmark. Roughly half of the national budget is subsidized by a block grant, thus Greenland has a great need to develop new sources of revenue to gain increased economic independence and to meet rising social costs associated with an aging population.

As global temperatures are rising, the warming is particularly pronounced in the Arctic regions. This means a continuous mass loss from the Greenland Ice sheet. With the increasing rates of glacier calving and melting comes an increase in river runoff and transportation of sediment to the ocean. These contributions are so massive that they are relevant in a global context and could serve as potential sources for the global market.

Despite the global prevalence of sand, this natural resource is running low, largely due to exponentially increasing human appropriation. Simultaneously, as climate changes, the world’s population becomes increasingly vulnerable and faces great challenges in adapting infrastructure to changing climate, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events. These changes and growing threats from climate change further strain global sand deposits. To put it into perspective; China used as much sand the last decade, as the US did the last century.

A sand mining industry in Greenland can help to create prosperity for the country, if the establishment and implementation is managed with strict Greenlandic legislation. Future research will be essential to document the persistence and quality of sand delivered to the coast and how sand mining impacts local ecosystems and associated ecosystem services. With the Perspective, we propose Greenland could benefit from the challenges brought by climate change.

Read the story ‘Behind the Paper’, I’ve written for the Nature Community HERE