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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

Stressors To Florida Keys Marine Ecosystem, A Study

NOAA scientists have found that pressure from increasing coastal populations, ship and boat groundings, marine debris, poaching, and climate change are critically threatening the health of the Florida Keys ecosystem. Many historically abundant marine resources such as green sea turtles and coral habitat continue to be at risk with low rates of recovery.

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Loving the Chambered Nautilus to Death

It is a living fossil whose ancestors go back a half billion years, to the early days of complex life on the planet, when the land was barren and the seas were warm. Nautilus lives on the slopes of deep coral reefs in the warm southwestern Pacific, but scientists say humans are loving the chambered nautilus to death, throwing its very existence into danger.

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Bioluminescence: Explanation for Glowing Waves Suggested

It has long been known that distinctive blue flashes, a type of bioluminescence, that are visible at night in some marine environments are caused by tiny, unicellular plankton known as dinoflagellates. However, a new study has, for the first time, detailed the potential mechanism for this bioluminescence.

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Accumulation of Microplastic on Shorelines Woldwide: Sources and Sinks

News, Pollution
Oct
22

Scientists are reporting that household washing machines seem to be a major source of so-called “microplastic” pollution, bits of polyester and acrylic smaller than the head of a pin, that they now have detected on the shorelines at 18 sites worldwide representing six continents from the poles to the equator, with more material in densely populated areas.

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Hawaii’s coral reef ecosystems worth $33.57 billion per year

A peer-reviewed study commissioned by NOAA shows the American people assign an estimated total economic value of $33.57 billion for the coral reefs of the main Hawaiian Islands.

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Radiation Risk at Scots Beach Worse Than Thought, Says Report

News, Pollution
Oct
19

Highly radioactive material have been found on the popular Dalgety Bay beach, Scotland, giving great “cause for concern”, especially for children, exposed to radioactive pollution from the beach, a study by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (Sepa) just revealed.

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The Teaspoon And The Bucket

News, Pollution
Oct
18

Now the Rena Cargo ship is set to join the wildlife fatalities her grounding has caused. But if she breaks and the remainder of that oil is released we will see four times the volume of oil already spilled. It must be remembered that what we can get to and remove, is only a part of what permeates the environment…

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Company pledges money for New Zealand oil cleanup

News, Pollution
Oct
18

The company that was chartering a cargo ship at the time it ran aground on a New Zealand reef and began spilling tons of oil offered 1 million New Zealand dollars ($800,000) Tuesday to help with the cleanup.

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Bioplastics : A Viable Future ?

News, Pollution
Oct
18

As millions of tons of petroleum-based plastic are consumed every year worldwide causing immense amounts of waste ultimately polluting beaches and oceans, bioplastic – biodegradable and not dependent on fossil resources- emerges as a viable replacement to petroleum-based plastics.

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Recent / Inform

New York Seas to Rise Twice as Much as Rest of U.S.

October 2nd, 2010

Sea levels around New York City and much of the U.S. Northeast will rise twice as much as in other parts of the United States this century, according to new climate models.

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Copenhagen Accord Loopholes and Risks to the “Rainforests of the Sea”

October 2nd, 2010

A global temperature increase of up to 4.2 º C and the end of coral reefs, the “Rainforests of the Sea,” could become reality by 2100 if national targets are not revised in the Copenhagen Accord.

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Palau, at risk from rising seas, aims to drill for oil

September 29th, 2010

Many island nations around the world are looking for creative solutions to a pending crisis, predicted boosts in sea level, associated with climate change. Analysts though, question why the World Bank is helping Palau develop fossil fuel resources when the island’s very existence is threatened by the burning of them.

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Savagery without Borders: Whaling: When the sands turns from white to blood red in the bays

September 29th, 2010

Japanese police have launched a probe after nets on holding pens for dolphins in the coastal town of Taiji were cut during an annual hunt.

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New Plan to Save Mediterranean Ecosystem

September 29th, 2010

The Mediterranean Basin is home to nearly half a billion people and visited by more than 220 million tourists each year. The Plan covers 34 countries with numerous different languages, alphabets, cultures and religions.

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Experiencing an International Coastal Clean-up Day

September 25th, 2010

Inspiration is often truly found in the most subtle and inconspicuous ways…

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The Louder the Reef, the Better Its Health

September 25th, 2010

This finding could change the way scientists monitor reefs.

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Italy Bans the Plastic Water Bottle Along Heritage Coastline

September 24th, 2010

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

September 24th, 2010

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

September 21st, 2010

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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