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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

Why this hurricane season has been so catastrophic

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What happens to marine wildlife during hurricanes?

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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Mathematics predicts a sixth mass extinction

MIT scientists have analyzed significant changes in the carbon cycle over the last 540 million years, including the five mass extinction events. They have identified ‘thresholds of catastrophe’ in the carbon cycle that, if exceeded, would lead to an unstable environment, and ultimately, mass extinction.

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How Hurricane Irma blew away the beach in Miami Beach

Hurricane Irma smacked Miami Beach’s shoreline with enough wind and rain to reshape some of the water’s edge, including washing away chunks of sand from a recently completed $11.5 million beach widening project.

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Gulf Spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers, study

The study appeared online Sept. 15 in Environmental Health Perspectives and is the first research to examine dispersant-related health symptoms in humans.

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Despite Rising Seas and Bigger Storms, Florida’s Land Rush Endures

Florida was built on the seductive delusion that a swamp is a fine place for paradise.

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Six square kilometers of Istanbul’s land reclaimed from the sea

Six square kilometers of land have been gained from Istanbul coasts and opened for urban use by filling up the sea. With the acceleration of such infrastructure work at the start of the millennium, professionals are warning about risks.

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NASA/UCI Find Evidence of Sea Level ‘Fingerprints’

Researchers have reported the first detection of sea level “fingerprints” in ocean observations: detectable patterns of sea level variability around the world resulting from changes in water storage on Earth’s continents and in the mass of ice sheets. Scientists had a solid understanding of the physics of sea level fingerprints, but have never had a direct detection of the phenomenon until now.

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Taking the Long View: The ‘Forever Legacy’ of Climate Change

Climate change projections often focus on 2100. But the geological record shows that unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will be locking in drastic increases in temperatures and sea levels that will alter the earth not just for centuries, but for millennia.

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Recent / Inform

Mathematics predicts a sixth mass extinction

September 22nd, 2017

MIT scientists have analyzed significant changes in the carbon cycle over the last 540 million years, including the five mass extinction events. They have identified ‘thresholds of catastrophe’ in the carbon cycle that, if exceeded, would lead to an unstable environment, and ultimately, mass extinction.

Read More

How Hurricane Irma blew away the beach in Miami Beach

September 21st, 2017

Hurricane Irma smacked Miami Beach’s shoreline with enough wind and rain to reshape some of the water’s edge, including washing away chunks of sand from a recently completed $11.5 million beach widening project.

Read More

Gulf Spill oil dispersants associated with health symptoms in cleanup workers, study

September 20th, 2017

The study appeared online Sept. 15 in Environmental Health Perspectives and is the first research to examine dispersant-related health symptoms in humans.

Read More

Despite Rising Seas and Bigger Storms, Florida’s Land Rush Endures

September 19th, 2017

Florida was built on the seductive delusion that a swamp is a fine place for paradise.

Read More

Six square kilometers of Istanbul’s land reclaimed from the sea

September 17th, 2017

Six square kilometers of land have been gained from Istanbul coasts and opened for urban use by filling up the sea. With the acceleration of such infrastructure work at the start of the millennium, professionals are warning about risks.

Read More

NASA/UCI Find Evidence of Sea Level ‘Fingerprints’

September 17th, 2017

Researchers have reported the first detection of sea level “fingerprints” in ocean observations: detectable patterns of sea level variability around the world resulting from changes in water storage on Earth’s continents and in the mass of ice sheets. Scientists had a solid understanding of the physics of sea level fingerprints, but have never had a direct detection of the phenomenon until now.

Read More

Taking the Long View: The ‘Forever Legacy’ of Climate Change

September 15th, 2017

Climate change projections often focus on 2100. But the geological record shows that unless we rapidly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, we will be locking in drastic increases in temperatures and sea levels that will alter the earth not just for centuries, but for millennia.

Read More

Historical nautical maps show loss of coral reefs

September 13th, 2017

Scientists have used detailed nautical maps created by British sailors in the 1700s to study more than two centuries of coral loss in the Florida Keys. They found that over the past 240 years, the region has lost more than half of its coral structures, with some areas, particularly closer to shore, either gone completely or having lost up to 90 percent of their extent.

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Biodiversity just as powerful as climate change for healthy ecosystems

September 13th, 2017

Biodiversity is proving to be one of humanity’s best defenses against extreme weather. In past experiments, diversity has fostered healthier, more productive ecosystems, like shoreline vegetation that guards against hurricanes.

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Ship exhaust makes oceanic thunderstorms more intense

September 12th, 2017

Thunderstorms directly above two of the world’s busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don’t travel, according to new research.

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