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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

Scientists find new source of radioactivity from Fukushima disaster: in sand and groundwater

Scientists have found a previously unsuspected place where radioactive material from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant disaster has accumulated—in sands and brackish groundwater beneath beaches up to 60 miles away. The sands took up and retained radioactive cesium originating from the disaster in 2011 and have been slowly releasing it back to the ocean.

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An Unlikely Corner of New York

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Oct
5

Nestled under the crook of Brooklyn, Jamaica Bay is a place as different from New York City as you can find.

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Walker doubles down on opposing Pebble Mine, Alaska

Governor Bill Walker is against the controversial mine and said the mine’s developers have not yet proven to him that the project can be done without harming the Bristol Bay region’s salmon fishery.

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The world hungers for sand

The ravenous hunger for sand worldwide was spotlighted in the 2013 documentary “Sand Wars” by French filmmaker Denis Delestrac, which warned that illegal sand mining could make beaches a thing of the past by the end of the 21st century.

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Ecological roulette”: Sea creatures hitchhike across Pacific on tsunami debris

Nearly 300 species of fish, mussels and other sea critters hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean on debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, washing ashore alive in the United States. It is the largest and longest marine migration ever documented.

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Did rapid sea-level rise drown fossil coral reefs around Hawaii?

Investigations to predict changes in sea levels and their impacts on coastal systems are a step closer, as a result of a new international collaboration.

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Warm waters tripled the amount of ice lost in these Antarctic glaciers — and that’s bad for sea level rise

Another glacier in Western Antarctica has been cracking from the inside out, producing another massive iceberg — four and a half times the size of Manhattan — this week.

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Brain damage in fish from plastic nanoparticles in water

A new study shows that plastic particles in water may end up inside fish brains. The plastic can cause brain damage, which is the likely cause of behavioral disorders observed in the fish.

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Florida without its beaches: Seawall dooms state oceanfronts, By Robert Young

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued an emergency authorization last week that will allow individual property owners in a portion of St. Johns County to build new seawalls without the typical engineering and scientific analysis. This is a terrible mistake for the communities impacted. It is poor coastal management.

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Recent / Inform

An Unlikely Corner of New York

October 5th, 2017

Nestled under the crook of Brooklyn, Jamaica Bay is a place as different from New York City as you can find.

Read More

Walker doubles down on opposing Pebble Mine, Alaska

October 4th, 2017

Governor Bill Walker is against the controversial mine and said the mine’s developers have not yet proven to him that the project can be done without harming the Bristol Bay region’s salmon fishery.

Read More

The world hungers for sand

September 30th, 2017

The ravenous hunger for sand worldwide was spotlighted in the 2013 documentary “Sand Wars” by French filmmaker Denis Delestrac, which warned that illegal sand mining could make beaches a thing of the past by the end of the 21st century.

Read More

Ecological roulette”: Sea creatures hitchhike across Pacific on tsunami debris

September 29th, 2017

Nearly 300 species of fish, mussels and other sea critters hitchhiked across the Pacific Ocean on debris from the 2011 Japanese tsunami, washing ashore alive in the United States. It is the largest and longest marine migration ever documented.

Read More

Did rapid sea-level rise drown fossil coral reefs around Hawaii?

September 28th, 2017

Investigations to predict changes in sea levels and their impacts on coastal systems are a step closer, as a result of a new international collaboration.

Read More

Warm waters tripled the amount of ice lost in these Antarctic glaciers — and that’s bad for sea level rise

September 26th, 2017

Another glacier in Western Antarctica has been cracking from the inside out, producing another massive iceberg — four and a half times the size of Manhattan — this week.

Read More

Brain damage in fish from plastic nanoparticles in water

September 26th, 2017

A new study shows that plastic particles in water may end up inside fish brains. The plastic can cause brain damage, which is the likely cause of behavioral disorders observed in the fish.

Read More

Florida without its beaches: Seawall dooms state oceanfronts, By Robert Young

September 25th, 2017

The Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued an emergency authorization last week that will allow individual property owners in a portion of St. Johns County to build new seawalls without the typical engineering and scientific analysis. This is a terrible mistake for the communities impacted. It is poor coastal management.

Read More

Why this hurricane season has been so catastrophic

September 24th, 2017

After Harvey, Irma, and Maria, a look at why this hurricane season has been so active.

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What happens to marine wildlife during hurricanes?

September 23rd, 2017

Hurricanes are incredibly powerful storms that wreak havoc on marine and coastal ecosystems as they work their way from deeper water toward land. The force of the storm churns up water, mixing warmer water at the surface with cooler water from farther down the water column. In all this churning, what happens to the wildlife living in the storm-tossed waters?

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