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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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Adelaide Sinks Off Avoca Beach, Australia

News, Pollution
Apr
13

After a year of rolling legal action, the scuttling of HMAS Adelaide off Avoca Beach on the NSW central coast was allowed, and the decommissioned warship will become a scuba diving attraction by month’s end. Environmentalists fears lead paint on the Adelaide is a health risk and that the wreck will cause beach erosion and ruin the surf.

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New Rights Challenge to Belo Monte Dam in Brazil

A group of independent Brazilian scientists, who recently studied the environmental impact report, concluded that the project was not viable. The Xingú river basin is home to four times more biodiversity that the whole of Europe.

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Nags Head beach nourishment approved

With the blessing of a state oversight commission secured last week, the project to nourish Nags Head’s eroded beaches will officially get under way as early as mid-June. The total cost of the project is between $36 million and $37 million

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Ozone Layer Faces Record 40 Percent Loss Over Arctic

Observations from satellites and ground stations suggest that atmospheric ozone levels for March in the Arctic were approaching the lowest levels in the modern instrumental era. The thinning ozone shifts away from the pole and covers Greenland and Scandinavia. Mostly the concern, for the Arctic ozone depletion, is for people that live in northern regions, more towards Iceland, northern Norway, the northern coast of Russia.

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It’s Official: There’s Plastic in All of the Subtropical Ocean Gyres

News, Pollution
Apr
9

Journalists and 5 Gyres Institute sail to the South to study plastic pollution in the South Pacific. Despite the lack of a theatrical spectacle, it’s still a surreal thing to see some of the results of the sampling.

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Sand Drift in Norway Caused by Sea-Level Changes and Human Activity

The sand along the south-western coastal rim of Norway has drifted for more than 9000 calendar years. This was triggered by sea-level changes and human activities, new research has found.

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Winthrop Beach’s Crumbling Sea wall and Acccelerated Erosion

Once a playground for the elite, who traveled from as far as Chicago to spend time at the hotels that lined the Winthrop beach in the early 20th century, the beach has been eroding over the past century. The process was accelerated by the installation of walls that were put up, which removed the source of natural sediment that once helped create the beach. Visitors can find evidence of what waves can do to manmade structures.

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Flotsam From Japan’s Tsunami to be Carried by Currents and Pushed Onshore

News, Pollution
Apr
1

The biggest haul of floating debris will likely be carried by currents off of Japan toward Washington, Oregon and California, then turning toward Hawaii and back again toward Asia, unless wind and ocean currents eventually push some of the massive debris from Japan’s tsunami onto the shores of the U.S. West Coast, said Curt Ebbesmeyer, a Seattle oceanographer who has spent decades tracking flotsam.

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Earth’s Gravity Revealed in Unprecedented Detail

After just two years in orbit, ESA’s GOCE satellite, a European spacecraft that skims the upper reaches of the atmosphere, has gathered enough data to map Earth’s gravity with unrivalled precision, from deep ocean trenches to majestic mountain ranges. The data will be crucial for understanding sea level changes, shifts in ice flows and how ocean currents, which are driven by gravity, respond as the planet warms over the next few decades.

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