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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

Historical nautical maps show loss of coral reefs

Scientists have used detailed nautical maps created by British sailors in the 1700s to study more than two centuries of coral loss in the Florida Keys. They found that over the past 240 years, the region has lost more than half of its coral structures, with some areas, particularly closer to shore, either gone completely or having lost up to 90 percent of their extent.

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Biodiversity just as powerful as climate change for healthy ecosystems

Biodiversity is proving to be one of humanity’s best defenses against extreme weather. In past experiments, diversity has fostered healthier, more productive ecosystems, like shoreline vegetation that guards against hurricanes.

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Ship exhaust makes oceanic thunderstorms more intense

News, Pollution
Sep
12

Thunderstorms directly above two of the world’s busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don’t travel, according to new research.

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East Coast of the USA is slowly sinking into the sea, study shows

The East Coast of the United States is threatened by more frequent flooding in the future. According to this study, the states of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are most at risk. Their coastal regions are being immersed by up to three millimeters per year , mong other things, due to human intervention.

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Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic, studies show

News, Pollution
Sep
8

New studies find microplastics in salt from the US, Europe and China, adding to evidence that plastic pollution is pervasive in the environment.

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Where can you find sand and sandbags ahead of Irma? Not the beach

Inform
Sep
8

Sandbags are being made available at several locations around our area, but there’s one place where you can’t get sand for sandbags: the beach. It is illegal to take sand from the beach for sandbags.

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A looming tragedy of the sand commons

Because of the difficulty in regulating their consumption, common-pool resources are prone to tragedies of the commons as people may selfishly extract them without considering long-term consequences, eventually leading to overexploitation or degradation. Even when sand mining is regulated, it is often subject to rampant illegal extraction and trade.

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Increasing effective decision-making for coastal marine ecosystems

Erosion, Inform
Sep
7

Marine restoration, rather than protection, might be the most cost-effective solution for coastal marine ecosystems suffering from human activities, a new study has found.

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Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals

News, Pollution
Sep
6

Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted. The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled.

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Recent / Inform

East Coast of the USA is slowly sinking into the sea, study shows

September 11th, 2017

The East Coast of the United States is threatened by more frequent flooding in the future. According to this study, the states of Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina are most at risk. Their coastal regions are being immersed by up to three millimeters per year , mong other things, due to human intervention.

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Sea salt around the world is contaminated by plastic, studies show

September 8th, 2017

New studies find microplastics in salt from the US, Europe and China, adding to evidence that plastic pollution is pervasive in the environment.

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Where can you find sand and sandbags ahead of Irma? Not the beach

September 8th, 2017

Sandbags are being made available at several locations around our area, but there’s one place where you can’t get sand for sandbags: the beach. It is illegal to take sand from the beach for sandbags.

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A looming tragedy of the sand commons

September 8th, 2017

Because of the difficulty in regulating their consumption, common-pool resources are prone to tragedies of the commons as people may selfishly extract them without considering long-term consequences, eventually leading to overexploitation or degradation. Even when sand mining is regulated, it is often subject to rampant illegal extraction and trade.

Read More

Increasing effective decision-making for coastal marine ecosystems

September 7th, 2017

Marine restoration, rather than protection, might be the most cost-effective solution for coastal marine ecosystems suffering from human activities, a new study has found.

Read More

Plastic fibres found in tap water around the world, study reveals

September 6th, 2017

Tests show billions of people globally are drinking water contaminated by plastic particles, with 83% of samples found to be polluted. The US had the highest contamination rate, at 94%, with plastic fibres found in tap water sampled.

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Laguna de Términos

September 3rd, 2017

Along the coast of southeast Mexico, in the state of Campeche, wetlands and rivers give way to a shallow, swirling body of water. At 2500 square kilometers, Laguna de Términos is Mexico’s largest coastal lagoon.

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Satellite photos reveal how Mumbai killed its mangrove forests to risk epic floods

September 2nd, 2017

Mumbai is essentially a peninsula jutting into the Arabian Sea. Since the 1980s, the city’s population has more than doubled. That’s led to rapid urbanisation of the surrounding areas, as well as encroachment of the mangroves on the city’s edges.

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The Next Houston

August 31st, 2017

Even as Harvey lingers in the Gulf Coast, dumping rain on an already deluged region, the Atlantic hurricane season continues, and threatens to bring more nasty storms in short order. In the central Atlantic, Irma is some 3,000 miles southeast of Miami Wednesday afternoon, and is expected to become a hurricane later this week.

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Sand Mining: Growing Pains of Cross-Border Trade

August 29th, 2017

When powerful storms strike, like Typhoon Hato in southern China or Hurricane Harvey in Texas, the surging water scatters tons of sand – an essential ingredient required for the rebuilding soon to follow. Such storms add to growing global demand for sand with poor consequences for the economy and environment.

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