Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Sustainability of the global sand system in the Anthropocene

Torres, Aurora, Simoni, Mark, Keiding, Jakob, Müller, Daniel, zu Ermgassen, Sophus O.S.E., Liu, Jianguo, Jaeger, Jochen, Winter, Marten, Lambin, Eric (2021) Sustainability of the global sand system in the Anthropocene. One Earth, 4 (5). pp. 639-650. ISSN 2590-3330. E-ISSN 2590-3322. (doi:10.1016/j.oneear.2021.04.011) (KAR id:93543)


Sand, gravel, and crushed rock, together referred to as construction aggregates, are the most extracted solid materials. Growing demand is damaging ecosystems, triggering social conflicts, and fueling concerns over sand scarcity. Balancing protection efforts and extraction to meet society's needs requires designing sustainable pathways at a system level. Here, we present a perspective on global sand sustainability that shifts the focus from the mining site to the entire sand-supply network (SSN) of a region understood as a coupled human-natural system whose backbone is the physical system of construction aggregates. We introduce the idea of transitions in sand production from subsistence mining toward larger-scale regional supply systems that include mega-quarries for crushed rock, marine dredging, and recycled secondary materials. We discuss claims of an imminent global sand scarcity, evaluate whether new mining frontiers such as Greenland could alleviate it, and highlight three action fields to foster a sustainable global sand system.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1016/j.oneear.2021.04.011
Uncontrolled keywords: construction minerals
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GE Environmental Sciences
H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation > DICE (Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology)
Depositing User: Sophus Zu-Ermgassen
Date Deposited: 10 Mar 2022 18:44 UTC
Last Modified: 11 Mar 2022 09:58 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

zu Ermgassen, Sophus O.S.E..

Creator's ORCID:
CReDIT Contributor Roles:
  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.