Abstract

Ice flow dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet control the production of sediment. Future acceleration in glacial flow and ice sheet melt will amplify Greenland’s supply of sediment to the coastal zone. Globally, sand and gravel reserves are rapidly depleting while the demand is increasing, largely due to urban expansion, infrastructural improvements and the enhancement of coastal protection in response to climate change. Here, we show that an abundance of sand and gravel provides an opportunity for Greenland to become a global exporter of aggregates and relieve the increasing global demand. The changing Arctic conditions help pave a sustainable way for the country towards economic independence. This way, Greenland could benefit from the challenges brought by climate change. Such exploitation of sand requires careful assessment of the environmental impact and must be implemented in collaboration with the Greenlandic society.

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Acknowledgements

M.B., A.A.B. and L.L.I. were funded by The Carlsberg Foundation (grants CF17-0323, CF17-0529 and CF17-0155). A.K. was funded by the Danish National Research Foundation (CENPERM DNRF100). M.T.R received support from The Novo Nordisk Foundation (NNF16SH0020278). I.O. thanks the University of Colorado for a 2018 Research & Innovative Seed Grant on Sediment Fluxes from Greenland.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. INSTAAR, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

    • Mette Bendixen
    •  & Irina Overeem
  2. Department of Geological Sciences, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO, USA

    • Irina Overeem
  3. Lundbeck Center for GeoGenetics, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Minik T. Rosing
    • , Anders Anker Bjørk
    •  & Kurt H. Kjær
  4. CENPERM, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Aart Kroon
  5. Landscape Architecture, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, USA

    • Gavin Zeitz
  6. School of Life Sciences, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, USA

    • Lars Lønsmann Iversen
  7. Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, National Museum of Natural Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

    • Lars Lønsmann Iversen

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Contributions

M.B. and L.L.I. framed the Perspective and together with I.O. collected the data presented here. L.L.I. and A.G.Z. produced the graphics. M.B. and L.L.I. wrote the manuscript with contributions and inputs from all authors.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Correspondence to Mette Bendixen.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0218-6