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

UN Team Examines Mining Threat to Great Barrier of Reef

A UN team has arrived in Australia to investigate possible damage to the Great Barrier Reef by the mining industry.

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Oil versus fish in idyllic Norwegian islands

The question of whether Norway should allow prospecting in the waters around Lofoten’s 1,000 or so islands, has pitted environmentalists and some fishermen against the country’s mighty energy sector.

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A North Carolina Lifeline Built on Shifting Sands

Last August, when Hurricane Irene sliced across the Outer Banks, it cut Highway 12, Hatteras Island’s lifeline, in two places. Engineers rushed to repair the damage, but very soon after completion, the winds and waves that shape the coast were already gnawing at the new bridge.

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Voyage to Pitcairn

A National Geographic Expedition to the remote Pitcairn Islands, including the famous Pitcairn and its 57 inhabitants, descendants from the Bounty mutineers, will embark in March-April 2012. This expedition is part of NG Pristine Seas project to explore, survey and help protect the last wild places in the ocean.

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Oldest Arctic Sea Ice is Disappearing

A new study by NASA scientist Joey Comiso has found that the oldest and thickest Arctic sea ice is disappearing at a faster rate than the younger and thinner ice at the edges of the ice cap.

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Ocean Acidification Rate May Be Unprecedented

News, Pollution

The world’s oceans may be turning acidic faster today from human carbon emissions than they did during four major extinctions in the last 300 million years, when natural pulses of carbon sent global temperatures soaring…

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Rising Seas To Have Uneven Consequences For California Beach Towns

There will be winners and there will be losers as Southern California beaches erode unevenly in response to rising sea levels over the next century, according to a new study. Using models to project how climate change would alter the width of the sand, attendance and visitor spending at 51 public beaches in Los Angeles and OC counties, a team of researchers examined the physical and economic effects of permanent beach loss…

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Floods in Northwestern Tunisia

A combination of melting snow, overflowing rivers, and heavy rains flooded parts of coastal northwestern Tunisia.

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France Taken to Court for Failing to Combat Water Pollution by Nitrates

News, Pollution

The EU Nitrates Directive aims to protect water quality across Europe by preventing nitrates from agricultural sources polluting ground and surface waters and by promoting the use of good farming practices. Although the Nitrates Directive has been in force since 1991, France has still not designated a number of zones that are vulnerable to nitrates pollution.

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Recent / Inform

Alliance between the Arctic and Tropics

February 25th, 2011

Inuit leaders seek common front against climate warming.

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Last Chance Beach, Battling Erosion in Barbados

February 25th, 2011

Around Barbados, the most serious threat to the beaches is the loss of coral reefs through nearshore pollution, primarily caused by domestic sewage, and physical clearing. As the reefs die, they lose their ability to reduce the energy and erosive force of incoming waves.

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Sundarbans’ Tigers Further Pushed Towards Extinction by Rising Sea Levels

February 24th, 2011

An expected sea level rise of 28 cm above 2000 levels may cause the remaining tiger habitat in the Sundarbans to decline by 96 percent, pushing the total population to fewer than 20 breeding tigers, according to a study.

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Bangladesh’s Project to Develop and Protect Southern Coastal Region

February 24th, 2011

Bangladesh’s coastal area covers about 20% of the country and over thirty percent of the net cultivable area. The saline sea waters have been pushing up inland and progressively more and more areas are meeting a similar fate.

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68 Percent of New England and Mid-Atlantic Beaches Are Eroding

February 24th, 2011

An assessment of coastal change over the past 150 years has found 68 percent of beaches in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region are eroding.

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Reefs at Risk Report, Revisited: A Wakeup Call to Protect Coral

February 23rd, 2011

The new Reefs at Risk Revisited report is out, 13 years after the original Reefs at Risk, which was the first global assessment of the threats to Earth’s coral reefs and painted an alarming picture of their future. Today’s edition is even less rosy: three-quarters of the world’s coral reefs are at risk due to overfishing, pollution, climate change and other factors.

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Impacts Of Intensive Salmon Farming On Coastal Ecosystems

February 22nd, 2011

A new salmon-farming trade deal with China has terrifying implications on Scotland’s coastal ecosystem.

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50 million environmental refugees by 2020, experts say

February 21st, 2011

These are people who can no longer gain a secure livelihood in their homelands because of drought, soil erosion, desertification, deforestation and other environmental problems, together with the associated problems of population pressures and profound poverty.

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Border battle in Russia’s Arctic over oil, BP to Drill In Protected National Park

February 20th, 2011

Oil drilling licenses have been distributed for drilling operations in the Kara Sea, off the coast of the Novaya Zemlya archipelago, which borders the sea along the west and up to the north.

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Global warming could spur toxic algae, bacteria in marine environment

February 20th, 2011

Unhealthy oceans impact not only human and animal health but also affect countries’ economies, said Lubchenco, noting that US coastal states are home to eight in 10 Americans and generated 83 percent of US GDP in 2007.

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