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

Cruise Ship Threatens Marine Paradise

News, Pollution

The risk of environmental damage to the Tuscan Archipelago National Park seas’ has not yet receded, as half-million gallons (2,400 tons) of black goo are still trapped within the capsized Costa Concordia luxury liner, in danger of leaking out and polluting some of the Mediterranean’s most unspoiled sea.

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Ghana’s Booming Offshore Oil Industry and Environmental Concerns

News, Pollution

Environmental concerns are raised as more oil companies begin drilling off the coast of Ghana. Does the country have the resources to cope with a major spill?

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Huge oil rig arrives to explore in Cuban waters

News, Pollution

A massive drilling rig arrived Thursday in the warm Gulf waters north of Havana, where it will sink an exploratory well deep into the seabed.

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Reef Fish at Risk as Carbon Dioxide Levels Build

Researchers from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, examined over the years how baby coral fishes and their predators dealt with sea water containing higher levels of dissolved carbon dioxide.

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Ocean Giants Ban Needed on Italy Coasts: Environmentalists

News, Pollution

As the search continues for any further survivors of the 17-deck cruise ship Costa Concordia that capsized in the middle of a marine nature reserve off Tuscany, questions are being asked about the potential environmental impact and threats to the coastline. We have a huge ship with tanks full of fuel, aground on an island in a sea fringed with natural protected areas.

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To Save a Beach, They May Ruin It

Florida led the nation in establishing detailed criteria for ensuring that only high-quality sand is placed on Florida beaches during construction of beach nourishment projects.

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Dungeness’s strange beauty under threat from shingle plan

One of Europe’s most beautiful seascapes is in danger of being destroyed by a botched attempt to shore up its beach defences,

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Keeping the Sea Safe(r) from Plastic

News, Pollution

Most biodegradable plastics don’t break down well in marine environments—they require the relative warmth of soil or a compost heap. A new plastic on the market degrades quickly both on land and in seawater.

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How Societies Can Stave Off Climate Change and Save Lives

A new study led by a NASA scientist highlights 14 key air pollution control measures that if implemented could slow the pace of global warming and save millions of lives.

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Recent / Inform

Rising Waters Threatened The Coast of North Carolina

January 18th, 2011

Climate change is carving its name into the state’s retreating shorelines. Planners are taking official notice as they prepare for a wetter world.

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A Retreat In The Face Of a Rising Sea, California

January 17th, 2011

Higher ocean levels force California officials to move facilities inland – a managed retreat – an action that is expected to recur along the coast as the ocean rises over the next century, and as coastal communities have to come to grips with worsening coastal erosion.

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An Environmental Impact Statement: Abstraction of Destruction

January 16th, 2011

The vivid color photographs of J. Henry Fair lead an uneasy double life as potent records of environmental pollution and as ersatz evocations of abstract painting, a strange battle between medium and message, between harsh truths and trite, generic beauty. His subjects include environmental degradation perpetuated on a regular, usually daily basis. “Abstraction of Destruction” is an exhibition at the Gerald Peters Gallery.

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Sea Urchins and Overfishing Impact on Kenya Coast’s Reefs

January 15th, 2011

An 18-year study of Kenya’s coral reefs by the Wildlife Conservation Society and the University of California at Santa Cruz has found that overfished reef systems have more sea urchins, organisms that in turn eat coral algae that build tropical reef systems.

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Tracking Source of Microbial Contamination at the Beach

January 15th, 2011

Reliable methods to determine the origins of contaminants are needed in order to reduce those sources and maintain a healthy beach.

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Sea Level Rise And The World’s Beaches, by Orrin H. Pilkey

January 11th, 2011

Of all the various anticipated impacts of global climate change, sea level rise will likely be the first to produce a human catastrophe on a global scale. If our beaches are to survive for our grandchildren’s enjoyment, the time has come to plan the big withdrawal.

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Drawing up a Global “Red List” of Vanishing Ecosystems

January 8th, 2011

Now scientists are figuring out how to catalog and map the world’s most threatened ecosystems, such as mangrove, just like their familiar list of endangered species.

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Did You Just Eat a Plastic Bag?

January 7th, 2011

How Plastic Pollution Has Entered Our Food Chain. Research is just beginning to show that we are consuming many other chemicals through our seafood, and our disposable plastic waste may be a potent source of this contamination.

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Uncontrolled Sand Mining Days Numbered, Namibia

January 4th, 2011

While sand mining in the Swakop River is a crucial element of coastal development, concern is mounting over the uncontrolled sand mining taking place in the Swakop River, which is creating dangerous conditions as well as causing severe environmental damage.

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Bangladesh Sand to Help Keep the Maldives Afloat

January 3rd, 2011

After looking to buy land in other countries, Maldives, one of the lowest countries on the planet, with an average land level of 1.5 metres above sea level, is making a last-ditch effort to avoid its citizens becoming climate refugees. It is importing sand.

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