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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.


Surfing in / Inform

Isla Holbox, Mexico’s best barefoot beach

Celebrate, Inform
Mar
16

Isla Holbox is a small, slender island just north of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s a gorgeous destination, with clear green-blue waters in every direction, and aquatic-inspired art is everywhere.

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Ailsa Craig

Inform
Mar
16

It has been a haven and sanctuary for pirates, smugglers, and religious dissenters. The Romans may have set up camp on this rock, and Catholic Spaniards and British and Scottish soldiers built a castle and other military garrisons on it. But these days, the tiny islet is known for two things: seabirds and curling stones.

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Half a degree more global warming could flood out 5 million more people

A new study finds that by 2150, the seemingly small difference between a global temperature increase of 1.5 and 2.0 degrees Celsius would mean the permanent inundation of lands currently home to about 5 million people, including 60,000 who live on small island nations.

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Coral reef experiment shows: acidification from carbon dioxide slows growth

Ocean acidification will severely impair coral reef growth before the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked, according to new research on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef led by Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and the California Academy of Sciences’ Rebecca Albright.

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Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles: report

News, Pollution
Mar
15

The world’s leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny plastic particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process, according to a major study across nine countries.

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Key Biological Mechanism is Disrupted by Ocean Acidification

A team led by scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has demonstrated that the excess carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels interferes with the health of phytoplankton which form the base of marine food webs.

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The Sculpting of Ebro Delta

Just over 200 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, Spain’s largest river meets the Mediterranean Sea and creates the Ebro Delta. At 350 square kilometers, the delta is the fourth largest on the Mediterranean. It is an important wetland ecosystem and a productive agricultural area. Yet, humans, who indirectly drove the growth of the delta over the past 2100 years, are today starving the delta.

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Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists

News, Pollution
Mar
12

A study reveals highest microplastic pollution levels yet discovered anywhere in the world in a river in Manchester, UK and shows that billions of particles flooded into the sea from rivers in the area in just one year.

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Bali isn’t alone in its sea plastic pollution problem – the rest of Indonesia is struggling too

Inform, Pollution
Mar
10

Indonisian idyllic blue waters are marred by rubbish, from styrofoam to dirty nappies embedded in the coral. Uninhabited islands with the most beautiful bright white beaches, are camouflaged by a thick layer of plastic: flip flops, straws, disposable lighters, asthma inhalers, styrofoam and bottles in every size and shape.

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Recent / Inform

Coral reef experiment shows: acidification from carbon dioxide slows growth

March 15th, 2018

Ocean acidification will severely impair coral reef growth before the end of the century if carbon dioxide emissions continue unchecked, according to new research on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef led by Carnegie’s Ken Caldeira and the California Academy of Sciences’ Rebecca Albright.

Read More

Top bottled water brands contaminated with plastic particles: report

March 15th, 2018

The world’s leading brands of bottled water are contaminated with tiny plastic particles that are likely seeping in during the packaging process, according to a major study across nine countries.

Read More

Key Biological Mechanism is Disrupted by Ocean Acidification

March 15th, 2018

A team led by scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego has demonstrated that the excess carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels interferes with the health of phytoplankton which form the base of marine food webs.

Read More

The Sculpting of Ebro Delta

March 13th, 2018

Just over 200 kilometers southwest of Barcelona, Spain’s largest river meets the Mediterranean Sea and creates the Ebro Delta. At 350 square kilometers, the delta is the fourth largest on the Mediterranean. It is an important wetland ecosystem and a productive agricultural area. Yet, humans, who indirectly drove the growth of the delta over the past 2100 years, are today starving the delta.

Read More

Microplastic pollution in oceans is far worse than feared, say scientists

March 12th, 2018

A study reveals highest microplastic pollution levels yet discovered anywhere in the world in a river in Manchester, UK and shows that billions of particles flooded into the sea from rivers in the area in just one year.

Read More

Bali isn’t alone in its sea plastic pollution problem – the rest of Indonesia is struggling too

March 10th, 2018

Indonisian idyllic blue waters are marred by rubbish, from styrofoam to dirty nappies embedded in the coral. Uninhabited islands with the most beautiful bright white beaches, are camouflaged by a thick layer of plastic: flip flops, straws, disposable lighters, asthma inhalers, styrofoam and bottles in every size and shape.

Read More

Trump official under fire after granting broad access to mining and oil firms

March 9th, 2018

A key Trump administration official scheduled roughly twice as many meetings with mining and fossil-fuel representatives as with environmental groups, public records requests have revealed.

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6 Gorgeous Sea Glass Beaches In The U.S.

March 8th, 2018

The only thing more special than taking a long walk on the beach might just be discovering a treasure while on that stroll—like a sea shell or a piece of sea glass.

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Sinking land will exacerbate flooding from sea level rise in Bay Area

March 8th, 2018

Hazard maps use estimated sea level rise due to climate change to determine flooding risk for today’s shoreline, but don’t take into account that some land is sinking. A precise study of subsidence around San Francisco Bay shows that for conservative estimates of sea level rise, twice the area is in danger of flooding by 2100 than previously thought. Some landfill is sinking 10 mm per year, threatening the airport and parts of Silicon Valley.

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Best beaches in the UK and Europe: readers’ travel tips

March 8th, 2018

A selection from Ireland to southern Italy.

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