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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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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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Corals Moving North to Escape Warming

Corals are dying in tropical areas, but now it appears they are expanding their range poleward. However, even if range expansion of corals does occur, the amount of dying corals in tropical areas may be much greater than the new settlements in the temperate regions.

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Beach Renourishment Projects in Doubt

On a narrow stretch of Sand Key, Fl., the beach has eroded from months of rushing waves. Tides eat away at the coast, sweeping sand back into the gulf. Unstopped by the shore, water rolls to the seawall, 20 feet from condominiums. Bordered by 825 miles of sandy shoreline, Florida tops the nation in federally funded beach renourishment.

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Papua New Guinea Coastal Mine Waste Dumping: The Ramu Mine Case

News, Pollution
Mar
27

The dumping of mine tailings waste into the shallow coastal marine environment is currently before the National Court of Papua New Guinea, in a case that will have far-reaching implications. At stake are the pristine waters of the Bismarck Sea and the livelihoods of thousands of coastal inhabitants on one hand, and the future of mine waste disposal on the other.

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5th International Marine Debris Conference, in Hawaii

News, Pollution
Mar
26

The conference brought together over 440 participants from 35 countries to discuss the most pressing issues surrounding plastic pollution in our oceans and waterways.

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Plant Poisons More Than 100 Villagers, Coastal Zhejiang Province China

News, Pollution
Mar
25

A total of 139 villagers in a village near Taizhou city in coastal Zhejiang province have been found to have elevated lead levels in their blood, Xinhua cited the provincial health department as saying in a statement.

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The Plastic Found In a Single Turtle’s Stomach

News, Pollution
Mar
24

This collection of hundreds of coloured, jagged shards could be a work of abstract art. But the objects in the photograph are the contents of the stomach of a sea turtle, found off the coast of Argentina, that lost its battle with plastic pollution.

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European Coastal Pollution Harms Ecosystems, Study Finds

The bodies of harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), which live in estuaries or along coastlines where industrial activities take place, are highly contaminated. This is the result of a European study, involving Spanish participation, which warns of the danger to all the other species that share their ecosystem from ports throughout Europe, even in the Mediterranean.

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The World's Beaches
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