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

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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EPA Board Rejects Appeal of Shell Arctic Permit

News, Pollution

Shell Alaska spokesman said in a formal announcement that the decision means Shell, for the first time, has usable air permits that will allow its drill ship to work in the outer continental shelf off Alaska’s northwest coast in 2012…

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Bold Plan Proposed to Save Coastal Louisiana

A $50 billion, 50-year proposal aspires to stop coastal land loss in Louisiana. Since the 1930s, the state’s coast has lost about 1,900 square miles, an area larger than Rhode Island.

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Greenland’s Ice Is Growing Darker

In the past decade satellites have observed a decrease in Greenland’s reflectiveness. This darker surface now absorbs more sunlight, which accelerates melting. So why is the area becoming darker?

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Recent / Inform

Urban Stormwater Runoff: A Significant Source of Beachwater Pollution

December 22nd, 2010

Stormwater runoff is generated when precipitation from rain and snowmelt events flows over land or impervious surfaces and does not percolate into the ground. Stormwater runoff is the most frequently identified source of beach closing and advisory days. The best way to protect beachgoers from water contamination is to prevent pollution from reaching the beach.

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Sea-level study brings good and bad news to Chesapeake Bay

December 22nd, 2010

A new study of local sea-level trends by researchers at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science brings both good and bad news to localities concerned with coastal inundation and flooding along the shores of Chesapeake Bay.

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100% of Most Challenging Plastic Wrapping Could Be Recycled With New Technology

December 21st, 2010

Researchers at the University of Warwick have devised a new technique which could process 100% of household plastic instead of the tiny fraction that currently actually gets processed.

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Sydney’s Beach protection attempt may carry price tag of $700m

December 20th, 2010

Preserving Sydney’s beaches against rising sea levels could cost more than $700 million over the next 50 years and would require the government to reverse its long-standing position regarding offshore sand mining.

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Magdalen Islands and Shoreline Erosion, Québec

December 19th, 2010

In Québec, shoreline erosion primarily affects the estuarine regions and the Gulf of St-Lawrence that extends from Québec city to the Magdalen Islands.

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Portsea beach erosion, failed shorline armoring, Australia

December 19th, 2010

$2 million were spent building a sea wall in an attempt to try to stop beach erosion.

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Pacific Islands: Duel Between Freshwater and Sea Water

December 18th, 2010

It is said that the first refugees of climate change will come from the Pacific coral islands. Scientists are assessing what will happen to freshwater resources as a consequence of expected changes in the climate and sea level.

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California approves first broad US climate plan

December 18th, 2010

California, acting on its own against climate change, has approved a plan to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and let power plants, factories and eventually refiners and others to trade permits to pollute in a program generally known as cap-and-trade. California will become the second-largest carbon market in the world, following a European system.

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Worsening Coastal Erosion, Québec

December 17th, 2010

A fierce storm and high tides washed away large sections of the shoreline along the St. Lawrence River, leaving homes perilously close to the water’s edge. A State of alert remains as new high tides are expected around December 22nd and 24th.

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Battling Ghana’s Eroding Coastline

December 13th, 2010

For Ghana, the real story of coastal erosion is not about what lies at the water’s edge, but what occurs beneath the waves offshore. In the capital city of Accra, an estimated 70 percent of the beach is eroding at rates exceeding 3 feet per year.

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