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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

EPA Tells Coastal States to Consider Rising Ocean Acidity

News, Pollution
Nov
16

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says some states with coastal waters that are becoming more acidic because of carbon dioxide, should list them as impaired.

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Parts of Los Angeles County ban plastic bags

News, Pollution
Nov
16

Parts of Los Angeles County have joined other California communities in banning stores from using single-use plastic bags.

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Caribbean Reef Ecosystems May Not Survive Repeated Stress

Coral reefs suffered now record losses as a consequence of high ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean in 2005, according to the most comprehensive documentation of basin-scale bleaching to date.

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Record number of British beaches reach highest European standards

News, Pollution
Nov
15

The number of blue flag beaches in England fell from 82 in 2008 to 71 last year, largely as a result of detritus and pollution. However, 86.2% of beaches (425) in England and Wales meet higher guideline standards this year, a huge increase from previous figures.

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Rare Cold Water Coral Discovered off the Coast of Mauritania

A rare cold water coral reef has been discovered off the coast of Mauritania in Northern Africa, the first time such a reef has been found this far south.

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Enormous Levels of Illegal Turtle Harvesting on Beaches, Madagascar

The study is the first direct assessment of the level of exploitation of turtles in Madagascar. Similar harvests exist in many countries in the tropical coastal developing world, so this isn’t an isolated issue, but clearly it is a cause for concern when dealing with endangered species.

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Third Nuclear Power Plant Discharge Destroying Kenting’s Reefs

Thermal discharge from the Third Nuclear Power Plant is behind the rapid destruction of Kenting National Park’s coral reef, Taiwan.

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The Silent Evolution: A Coral Reef Sculpture

Artist Jason deCaires Taylor recently completed work on one of the most surreal and awe-inspiring artificial reefs in Cancun/Isla Mujeres, Mexico, in an effort to promote the recovery of nearby natural reefs.

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Nigeria: Continuous Sand Mining and Dredging Cause Concerns

sand-mining
News, Sand Mining
Nov
12

Continued dredging in the state’s shorelines have been described as an illegal activity capable of causing major environmental challenge for Lagos in its bid for environmental sustainability.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
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