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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

In Defense of Biodiversity: Why Protecting Species from Extinction Matters

A number of biologists have recently made the argument that extinction is part of evolution and that saving species need not be a conservation priority. But this thinking shows a lack of understanding of evolution and an ignorance of the natural world.

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Innovative restoration of coral reefs helps protect Caribbean islands

Researchers have measured the protective role of coral reefs and field-tested a solution that reduces coastal risks by combining innovative engineering with restoration ecology.

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Satellite observations show sea levels rising, and climate change is accelerating it

Sea level rise is happening now, and the rate at which it is rising is increasing every year, according to a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Microplastics pollute most remote and uncharted areas of the ocean

News, Pollution
Feb
12

First data ever gathered from extremely remote area of the South Indian Ocean has a surprisingly high volume of plastic particles, say scientists. Currently scientists can only account for 1% of the plastic they think is in the ocean.

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Shore towns use sand dredged from inlets to widen beaches

Coastal areas around the country are dredging clogged inlets to make them easier to navigate, and using the sand they suck from the bottom to widen beaches damaged by natural erosion or serious storms. Concerns that have arisen from inlet dredging include possibly disturbing wildlife habitat, or affecting the shape of nearby shorelines.

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Slowly but surely, South Carolina’s incredibly complex shoreline is losing ground

Erosion, Inform
Feb
11

More than half of South Carolina’s shoreline is eroding under an onslaught of rising seas, pounding storms and other scouring forces. These and other recent findings cast new light on the nature and fate of our coast.

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The Last Continent: Antarctic remains an enigma

Inform
Feb
10

As the last continent to be discovered, Antarctica remains a mysterious, mystical and spectacularly beautiful place that often turns adventurers and rational scientists into poets when they are asked to describe it. It is the emptiest and coldest place on Earth, but human incursions over the past century have severely impacted both the wildlife and the oceans.

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Plastic waste ‘building up’ in Arctic

News, Pollution
Feb
10

Plastic waste is building up in the supposedly pristine wilderness of the Norwegian Arctic, scientists say.

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Federal penalties against polluters at lowest level in a decade under Trump

cruise-ships
News, Pollution
Feb
9

Figures released by the EPA show that 115 crime cases were opened in 2017, down from a peak of nearly 400 in 2009.

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Recent / Inform

Satellite observations show sea levels rising, and climate change is accelerating it

February 12th, 2018

Sea level rise is happening now, and the rate at which it is rising is increasing every year, according to a study released Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Read More

Microplastics pollute most remote and uncharted areas of the ocean

February 12th, 2018

First data ever gathered from extremely remote area of the South Indian Ocean has a surprisingly high volume of plastic particles, say scientists. Currently scientists can only account for 1% of the plastic they think is in the ocean.

Read More

Shore towns use sand dredged from inlets to widen beaches

February 12th, 2018

Coastal areas around the country are dredging clogged inlets to make them easier to navigate, and using the sand they suck from the bottom to widen beaches damaged by natural erosion or serious storms. Concerns that have arisen from inlet dredging include possibly disturbing wildlife habitat, or affecting the shape of nearby shorelines.

Read More

Slowly but surely, South Carolina’s incredibly complex shoreline is losing ground

February 11th, 2018

More than half of South Carolina’s shoreline is eroding under an onslaught of rising seas, pounding storms and other scouring forces. These and other recent findings cast new light on the nature and fate of our coast.

Read More

The Last Continent: Antarctic remains an enigma

February 10th, 2018

As the last continent to be discovered, Antarctica remains a mysterious, mystical and spectacularly beautiful place that often turns adventurers and rational scientists into poets when they are asked to describe it. It is the emptiest and coldest place on Earth, but human incursions over the past century have severely impacted both the wildlife and the oceans.

Read More

Plastic waste ‘building up’ in Arctic

February 10th, 2018

Plastic waste is building up in the supposedly pristine wilderness of the Norwegian Arctic, scientists say.

Read More

Federal penalties against polluters at lowest level in a decade under Trump

cruise-ships

February 9th, 2018

Figures released by the EPA show that 115 crime cases were opened in 2017, down from a peak of nearly 400 in 2009.

Read More

Trucking Mud to the Beaches Means More Sand but Dirtier Waters, CA

February 9th, 2018

When Santa Barbara County dumps tons of mud from the catastrophic debris flow of January 9 on the shores of Goleta and Carpinteria, this wasn’t like anything that’s happened before. So residents are asking, “Will there be long-term effects? Might there be other locations that can share the impacts..?”

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Mysterious lives of narwhals

February 9th, 2018

Arctic marine mammals are really good indicators of climate change because they are very specialized. They are finely attuned to specific environmental conditions, thus are good indicator species for how the physical changes many scientists are documenting in the Arctic can reverberate throughout the ecosystem.

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New Trump Administration Flood Standards Mirror Obama-Era Rules

February 8th, 2018

Six months after President Trump revoked an Obama-era rule mandating that federally funded projects account for future sea level rise and flooding, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has announced that recipients of $7.4 billion in disaster recovery grants must do just that — seemingly representing a reversal of the administration’s stance on climate preparedness.

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