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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.


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This finding could change the way scientists monitor reefs.

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Italy Bans the Plastic Water Bottle Along Heritage Coastline

News, Pollution
Sep
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The worst month is August, when an average of 400,000 plastic bottles are discarded along the narrow strip of picturesque World Heritage coast, which lies south of Genoa in the province of Liguria.

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European Coastal Nations to Create Marine Protected Areas and Review Offshore Drilling

News, Pollution
Sep
24

European coastal nations agreed today in Oslo, to review rules for offshore drilling – but each country should decide individually – and to create six protected marine areas in the northeast Atlantic.

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Dirty secrets at Britain’s Blue-Flagged Beaches

News, Pollution
Sep
21

At least one in four of Britain’s premier bathing beaches are failing to meet the strict requirements of their “Blue Flag” designation, an international standard that is only granted if beach operators meet more than 30 strict criteria.

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Revealed: Our Contaminated Beaches, Scotland

News, Pollution
Sep
21

As Fraserburgh, Scotland, is getting ready for its UK Surf contest- expected to be “epic” due to Igor aftermath’s swell on European coasts- reports found sewage pollution has not spared many popular scottish beaches.

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Shipwrecks and Vanishing Coastlines: a Nigerian Predicament

The ocean is advancing menacingly towards populated areas, surge that caused severe erosion, which occurred as a result of shipwrecks and uncontrolled development of the coastlines, involving poorly done sand filling.

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7 Ways to Kick the Plastic Habits

Blog, Pollution
Sep
17

One real culprit of our oil addiction is plastic, and most of it ends up on our coasts, beaches and oceans.

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Waikiki Beach Replenishment

On the Waikiki shoreline, what’s here today will be gone tomorrow.

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Exploring links between Ocean Warming, Stronger Hurricanes and low-lying coastal zones

Hurricane

In an interview with Yale Environment, MIT meteorologist discusses current thinking on how higher sea surface temperatures are likely to lead to stronger hurricanes, thus believing subsidies and bailouts encouraging people to live in vulnerable, low-lying coastal zones are folly.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
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