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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.

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

Global warming increases wildfire potential damages in Mediterranean Europe

Anthropogenic warming will increase the burned areas due fires in Mediterranean Europe, and the increase of the burned area could be reduced by limiting global warming to 1.5ºC. The higher the warming level is, the larger the increase of the burned area is.

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Seagrass meadows in Guam have decreased by 22 percent, new analysis shows

seagrass

As the oceans warm and humans migrate to or grow in numbers in coastal areas of the world, scientists are increasingly keeping an eye on ocean seagrasses and their decline. A new analysis shows that seagrass meadows in Guam have decreased by 22 percent.

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Florida has a new water problem: red tide on the state’s busiest coast

A red tide that has sloshed up and down the Gulf Coast for nearly a year, leaving a wake of dead sea life, murky water and stinky beaches, has now landed on the state’s most crowded shores in Miami-Dade County.

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Why sea level rise threatens more than just land

In the Southeast, we stand to lose precious wildlife and culture, too. According to the scientific journal Plos One, more than 13,000 archaeological sites across the Southeast will disappear, many of those historical, cultural and architectural treasures are found on refuges from North Carolina to Florida to Texas…

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Thailand bay made popular by ‘The Beach’ closes indefinitely

“Maya Bay”, a popular day-trip destination, was due to reopen this month following a temporary tourist ban. But on Tuesday, Thailand’s Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation (DNP) announced the bay will remain closed indefinitely.

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The US would suffer some of the biggest costs of climate change

Climate change is a classic tragedy of the commons: every country acting in its own self-interest contributes to depleting a joint resource, making the world worse for everyone. The social cost of carbon (or SCC) is a way to put a price tag on the result of that tragedy, quantifying just how much climate change will cost the world over the coming generations.

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As sand mining grows, Asia’s deltas are sinking, water experts warn

Sand mining from rivers is depriving many low-lying Asian deltas of the sediment they need to maintain themselves, raising the risk of worsening land loss to sea level rise, researchers say.

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Hawai’i land impacted by sea level rise may be double previous estimates

By including models of dynamical physical processes such as erosion and wave run-up, a team of researchers has determined that land area in Hawai’i vulnerable to future sea level rise may be double previous estimates.

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Paris Conundrum: How to Know How Much Carbon Is Being Emitted?

As climate negotiators consider rules for verifying commitments under the Paris Agreement, they will have to confront a difficult truth: There currently is no reliably accurate way to measure total global emissions or how much CO2 is coming from individual nations.

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Recent / Inform

PCB pollution threatens to wipe out killer whales

September 29th, 2018

More than 40 years after the first initiatives were taken to ban the use of PCBs, the chemical pollutants remain a deadly threat to animals at the top of the food chain. A new study shows that the current concentrations of PCBs can lead to the disappearance of half of the world’s populations of killer whales from the most heavily contaminated areas within a period of just 30-50 years.

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Beach sand ripples can be fingerprints for ancient weather conditions

September 28th, 2018

Experiments show shifting ripple patterns can signal times of environmental flux.

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“A Never-Ending Commitment”: The High Cost of Preserving Vulnerable Beaches

September 27th, 2018

In the wake of hurricanes like Florence, the U.S. government pays to dump truckloads of sand onto eroding beaches, in a cycle that is said to harm ecosystems and disproportionately benefit the rich.

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Microplastics found deep in sand where turtles nest

September 26th, 2018

Scientists found an average of 5,300 particles of plastic per cubic metre at depths of 60cm (2ft) on beaches in Cyprus used by green turtles and loggerheads. These beaches in Cyprus are located far from industrial practices and aren’t visited by large numbers of people. The findings support the theory that beaches act as a “sink” for marine micro plastics.

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Back from the brink: the global effort to save coral from climate change

September 26th, 2018

Underwater nurseries offer glimmer of hope for endangered ecosystems, encouraging growth of coral fragments on fibreglass structures anchored to the seabed.

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Once majestic Atlantic Forest ’empty’ after 500 years of over-exploitation

September 25th, 2018

Five centuries of over-exploitation has halved mammal populations in South America’s Atlantic Forest — according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

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Climate gentrification: the rich can afford to move – what about the poor?

September 25th, 2018

While wealthy Arizonans flee the desert for cooler climes, ‘climate gentrification’ is also affecting hipster Red Hook, exposed on New York City’s floodplain. In Texas, campaigners want the oil industry to help pay for a coastal barrier to shield six counties from storm surges. And Molly Peterson asks what you can do if you buy a disaster-prone property and nobody warned you: so far, not much.

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Dramatic videos capture the moment a massive iceberg breaks away from a glacier

September 24th, 2018

Scientists from New York University captured breathtaking video of a 4-mile-long iceberg breaking off Helheim Glacier in eastern Greenland. While captivating, the researchers see the video as an alarming look at global sea-level rise.

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Op-Ed: Connecting Climate Change, Storms

ortley-beach-nj-2

September 24th, 2018

In a recent Op-Ed, environmental engineer Jason West implored the media to make the connection between intensifying storms and climate change. I couldn’t agree more.

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Beach rebuilding efforts won’t stave off climate change impacts forever

September 22nd, 2018

Supplemental sand may have saved a North Carolina beach from Hurricane Florence, but some say the projects aren’t worth it.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
One Percent