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

Pyramids Planted to Revive Philippine Corals

Thousands of small “pyramids” are being planted off the Philippines’ famous Boracay’s coast in an effort to bring its nearly destroyed coral reefs back to life, an environment group said Thursday.

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Delta State Government Bans the Dredging of Sand, Nigeria

The Niger Delta State Government has banned the dredging of sand in the 25 local governments. Commissioner for Environment Frank Omare said yesterday after a meeting with sand dredgers in Asaba, the state capital, that the directive was to save communities from ecological disaster.

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NASA Mission Takes Stock of Earth’s Melting Land Ice

In the first comprehensive satellite study of its kind, a University of Colorado at Boulder-led team used NASA data to calculate how much Earth’s melting land ice is adding to global sea level rise. Earth is losing a huge amount of ice to the ocean annually, and these new results will help answer important questions in terms of both sea rise and how the planet’s cold regions are responding to global change.

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Mining Black Sand, Lingayen, Philippines

The black sand of coastal villages facing the Lingayen Gulf, Philippines, is being mined for magnetite, a highly-valuable mineral used by industrial companies. The once pristine beaches are now destroyed and coastal erosion alarms residents.

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Prince Charles Optimistic for Fisheries’ Future

There are reasons for optimism about the future of the world’s fish stocks despite their currently dire state, said the Prince of Wales at the launch of a report from his green think-tank.

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Residents split over dredging plan for giant cruise liners, UK

A controversial plan to dredge a channel through part of Falmouth Bay – one of England’s finest stretches of marine habitat- to open up the port to giant cruise ships, has caused consternation among conservationists and the dispute will test European rules to protect ecosystems.

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Palm Beach County’s new beach erosion fight reignites sea turtle concerns

About two-thirds of Palm Beach County’s 46 miles of beach is considered “critically eroded,” according to state standards, and environmentalists question proposed beach erosion-fighting structures.

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Are Jellyfish Increasing in the World’s Oceans? A UCSB Study

Blooms, or proliferation, of jellyfish have shown a substantial, visible impact on coastal populations, clogged nets for fishermen, stinging waters for tourists, even choked intake lines for power plants, and recent media reports have created a perception that the world’s oceans are experiencing increases in jellyfish due to human activities such as global warming and overharvesting of fish.

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Beach Erosion Causes 18-Foot Cliffs In Atlantic City

Atlantic City, New Jersey, is blocking access to a half-mile stretch of beachfront after erosion created cliffs as high as 18 feet. It will be at least four months until the beaches will be open to the public again.

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Recent / Inform

Singapore Extends Its Coastlines With Illegally Dredged Sand

February 9th, 2011

Singapore, one of the world’s most prosperous and fastest growing economies, is being accused of expanding its coastline with illegally dredged sand from neighboring states.

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UK’s Prince Charles blasts climate-change skeptics

February 9th, 2011

Many doubters have dismissed scientific evidence supporting warming of the earth due to human activity, arguing that the large majority of scientists are wrong, or the consequences of warming overstated.

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Drilling May Kill Mediterranean Ecosystem: WWF

February 9th, 2011

The recently discovered Leviathan gas field, 135 kilometres off the Israeli coast, is the world’s biggest gas discovery in a decade, with an estimated volume of 16 trillion cubic feet of gas. Earlier this year, the West Nile Delta gas field was discovered as well, lying in Egyptian waters only 80 kilometres off Alexandria.

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New Light on Polynesian Migration

February 8th, 2011

The migratory story of the Polynesians may be more ancient and complicated than previously thought and may have had to do with sea level rises occurring at the time, and the formation of an archipelago.

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Iran oil spill hits Gulf coast

February 8th, 2011

An aging oil pipeline has ruptured in southern Iran, contaminating vast patches of the coast and farmland near the town of Deylam on the Gulf.

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$21 million Beach Replenishment Plan Moves Forward, Carlsbad Beach, CA

February 8th, 2011

The replenishment project is in its second phase. The first was completed in 2001 and placed nearly 2.1 million cubic yards of sand on county beaches.

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Thousands of Dead Fish Wash Ashore Florida’s Beaches

February 8th, 2011

Now, in the latest unexplained mass animal death this year alone, thousands of fish have again washed up dead on Florida’s shores. This follows similar incidents where large schools of fish were found lifeless on beaches in Arkansas, Maryland and New Zealand in January.

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Midway Journey II, An Environmental Tragedy Depicted

February 7th, 2011

Five media artists, led by photographer Chris Jordan, traveled to Midway Atoll to witness the catastrophic effect of our disposable culture on some of the world’s most beautiful and symbolic creatures. But even more, they embarked on an introspective journey to confront a vitally relevant question: In this time of unprecedented global crisis, how can we move through grief, denial, despair and immobility into new territories of acceptance, possibility, and wise action?

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Pollutants Threaten Mexico’s Coast: Study

February 6th, 2011

Pharmaceuticals, pesticides, chemical run-off from highways and many other pollutants infiltrate the giant aquifer under Mexico’s “Riviera Maya” coast, a new study shows.

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Cyclone Adds to Barrier Reef’s Flood Woes

February 6th, 2011

Smashed coral fragments have already begun washing up on Australia northeastern’s beaches.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
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