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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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Vatican Science Panel Calls Attention to the Threat of Glacial Melt

A panel of some of the world’s leading climate and glacier scientists co-chaired by a Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego researcher issued a report commissioned by the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences citing the moral imperative before society to properly address climate change.

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Coast Guards Take Action Against Illegal Sand Dredging

China’s construction boom has created a strong demand for sand, a key element in making concrete, fueling an explosion in illegal sea sand dredging.

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Capt. Kidd Shipwreck Site to Be Dedicated Living Museum of the Sea

This unique museum, resting in less than 10 feet of water just 70 feet from Dominican Republic’s shoreline, will give divers the opportunity to see the 17th century ship remains, which rest on the ocean’s floor and will serve as home to sea creatures and protect precious corals and other threatened biodiversity in the surrounding reef systems.

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While Energy Policy Falters, Plastic Bag Laws Multiply

Pollution
May
7

In the past decade, bans and taxes designed to reduce or eliminate bag consumption have swept the world. Certainly, the plastic industry continues to challenge these measures, strongly debating the environmental and energy benefits.

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Marine Plastic Pollution in the South Pacific: The 5 Gyres Institute Reports

News, Pollution
May
7

Pioneering researchers with the 5 Gyres Institute, have completed their fifth expedition through all five subtropical gyres, through the South Pacific Gyre, covering 2,300 miles, beginning in Valdivia, Chile and ending on Easter Island.

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Fishing for plastic: A European Plan to Save our Coasts and Seas

Pollution
May
6

An EU plan to pay fishermen to catch plastic will help save waters from waste while providing fleets with alternative income.

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After a Three-decade Hiatus, Sea-level Rise May Return to the West Coast

The West Coast of North America has caught a break that has left sea level in the eastern North Pacific Ocean steady during the last few decades, but there is evidence that a change in wind patterns may be occurring that could cause coastal sea-level rise to accelerate beginning this decade.

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The Coming Storm

The people of Bangladesh have much to teach us about how a crowded planet can best adapt to rising sea levels. For them, that future is now.

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Report: Hurricanes Pose Risk to 1.8M US Coastal Homes

More than 1.8 million homes along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts are at great risk of being damaged by a hurricane, three times the number located in federally defined flood zones, according to a report released Tuesday.

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Coastal Care junior
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