The health, beauty and ecosystem of our beaches is under threat
The driving cause for most of these problems is overdevelopment and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline, there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.
Coastal Care Introduction
“Beach sand: so common, so complex, so perfect for sandcastles; and now it is a precious and vanishing resource.”—Orrin H. Pilkey
Beaches are the most visited natural attraction on the planet. The coast attracts millions of vacationing people each year. People love the sand, the surf, the sea breeze, and the vacation ambiance so much that many come to the beach to stay. There is a magical feeling living near the ocean, but human migration towards the coast comes with a high environmental price tag.
A majority of the world’s population lives within 50 km of the coast and the projections are 75% by the year 2025. This strip of land represents only 3% of the total land mass of the planet. In this context, it is easier to understand the environmental impact. Over 70% of the earth is covered by water and with so many people living on the coast, we are polluting a major source of food, the oceans.
A beautiful undeveloped beach in Indonesia.
The loss of life and economic impacts of major storms – cyclones, typhoons, and hurricanes – and tsunamis would be reduced drastically if beaches were not developed. Unfortunately, recent examples of the problem are numerous: 1999 Indian cyclone Orissa (over 10,000 dead and $5 billion in damage), 2004 Indian Ocean tsumani (over 250,000 dead), 2005 Hurricane Katrina (over 1,800 killed and $80 billion in damage), and 2008 Hurricane Ike (over 30 killed and $30 billion in damage).
Today, the health, beauty, and ecosystem function of the world’s beaches are under threat and the driving causes for most of these problems are over-development and poor coastal management. If no buildings crowded the shoreline there would be no shoreline armoring, beach nourishment, threats to the beach fauna and flora or shoreline erosion problems.
It is important to distinguish between erosion and erosion problems. Erosion refers to the landward retreat of the shoreline. Most of the world’s shorelines are eroding, a very few are building out (accreting). There is no erosion problem, however, until someone builds something next to a shoreline. All over the world in remote areas, shorelines are slowly retreating and no one cares. In a global sense, our continents are slowly shrinking, and in a very real sense, erosion problems are man made. On a high-rise, condo-lined shoreline like those in Spain and the Florida coast, erosion is a huge problem and will only worsen in the future as sea level rise accelerates. Sea level rise will accelerate erosion of the shoreline and have a dramatic impact on our infrastructures, our economies, and our way of life.
Sea level rise is one of the most important causes of global shoreline erosion. If the coastline is developed, shoreline armoring is often used in an effort to save the buildings from the eroding shoreline. Once this begins, the beaches will degrade and eventually be lost. In the long-term, however, these armoring efforts are in vain. The ocean will continue to rise as the rate of sea level rise is expected to increase as the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets continue to degrade. The situation is made worse now because beach houses and condominiums are being built closer to the ocean than they were 25 years ago. Many of us are familiar with images of large beach houses about to fall victim to the oceans simply from daily erosion accelerated by the ever rising sea.
The work of the Santa Aguila Foundation will emphasize the impacts of sand mining and shoreline armoring: the first because the effects of sand mining have been largely ignored on a global scale and the latter due to its overwhelming negative impacts on the world’s beaches.
Surfing in / Inform
A line of decrepit cottages along what was once Seagull Drive in South Nags Head has stood for more than three years as testimony to long-running legal battles between the state, the town and property owners.
In the Senegalese town of Saint Louis, rising sea levels means that every year the sea gets closer to peoples homes and it is now just a matter of when, not if, their houses are swept away.
The world’s glaciers lost 260 gigatons of water each year between 2003 and 2009, making these rivers of ice responsible for almost a third of sea-level rise in that time, new research finds.
Scientists have to be careful when looking at Earth for evidence of past sea level changes from the planet’s cycles of glacial advance and retreat.
For nearly three decades, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) has mobilized millions of people in the world’s largest volunteer effort for our ocean, coasts and waterways. Volunteers pulled 10 million lbs. of trash, equivalent to the weight of 41 blue whales, from 17,719 miles (28,516 kilometers) of global waterways and beaches…
Researchers’ work provides a finer-grained portrait of a 1700 massive earthquake that struck the west coast of North America, and the changes in coastal land level it produced, enabling modelers to better prepare for future events.
Judie Clee’s collection of flotsam and jetsam that has washed up on Bermuda’s beaches is as amazing as it is disturbing.
Anyone who has been caught in a rip current knows how scary it can be, but seen from a unique perspective, (not to mention a safe distance) this one is just awesome.
The brilliant sands of Jervis Bay owe their color (or lack of it) to the relentless action of water from old rivers, and rising and falling seas over thousands of years. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the sands around Jervis Bay are the whitest in the world. These sands are also finer than typical ocean beach sand.