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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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Climate change: How do we know?

The current warming trend is of particular significance because most of it is very likely human-induced and proceeding at a rate that is unprecedented in the past 1,300 years. In the meantime, the fate of the only international agreement that sets binding targets for curbing greenhouse gases is hanging by a thread…

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Arctic Melt Raises Sea Levels and Reinforces Global Warming

If you want to see global warming’s signature, look to the Arctic. Up north, the air is warming and the ice is melting. For two decades, scientists have predicted these things would happen as the Earth warms, and now we see that the Arctic is changing much as expected. Melting Arctic ice is also contributing significantly to sea level rise.

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Major flooding on the Mississippi River to cause large Gulf of Mexico dead zone

News, Pollution
Jun
14

Scientists are predicting the hypoxic zone could measure between 8,500 and 9,421 square miles, or an area roughly the size of New Hampshire.

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Northwest Coast of Madagascar

The Betsiboka Estuary on the northwest coast is the mouth of Madagascar’s largest river and one of the world’s fast-changing coastlines. Nearly a century of extensive logging of rainforests and coastal mangroves has resulted in nearly complete clearing of the land and dramatic rates of erosion. Astronauts describe their view of Madagascar as “bleeding into the ocean.”

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City Pavement Affects Weather and Foster Build-up of Polluted Air

News, Pollution
Jun
11

Urban development is exacerbating air pollution in coastal regions, new research says. The study, led by researchers at the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), found that the sprawl of strip malls and other paved areas can affect weather patterns, trapping pollutants and hurting air quality during the summer months.

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A Giant Brought to Its Knees: The Atlantic Coastal Forest

The Atlantic Forest is a shadow of its former self. Originally covering more than 386,000 sq. miles along Brazil’s coast, extending into eastern Paraguay and northeastern Argentina. Today less than 7% of that cover remains, in the wake of centuries of forest clearing for agriculture and urban development, and fragmented by centuries of unsustainable use and logging.

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“100 percent trash boat” sets sail in Taiwan

News, Pollution
Jun
9

“ForEver” a boat built completely from plastic bottles and other recycled materials, including old advertising banners, set sail in Taiwan to raise awareness about the marine environment. As Canadian province of Manitoba bans plastic water bottles from its offices.

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EPA Concerns to Proposed Oil Pipeline From Canada to Gulf Coast

News, Pollution
Jun
8

The Environmental Protection Agency has raised concerns about a proposed pipeline that would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast.

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South West Marine Debris Cleanup

The South West Marine Debris Cleanup is an annual trip orchestrated by Environmental Scientist Matt Dell to the remote wilderness of Tasmania, where tonnes of rubbish can be found on the beaches of this pristine and isolated environment.This is his story. A video by Johnny Abegg.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
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