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

The High Costs Of Beach Renourishment

The sand at the newly renourished North Shore Road beach, on Longboat Key, Florida, is already eroding after its completion in May 2011, and an escarpment, or drop off, has formed at the beach access area. The beach renourishment project was completed only 5 months ago at a cost of $4.5 million and placed 133,000 cubic yards of sand on the beach…

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EU To Extend Coastal Pollution Fines To 200 Nautical Miles

News, Pollution

The European Commission proposed new rules to force oil-drilling companies to pay for pollution caused up to 200 nautical miles off European coastlines.

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Houses Made Of Plastic Bottles, Argentina

News, Pollution

A man in Argentina who built his house and furniture out of plastic bottles has been so successful that he is now teaching other people how to do the same.

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Tangier Island: Another Disappearing Island In The Chesapeake Bay

Tangier Island lies in the middle of the Chesapeake Bay and is 92 miles (148km) southeast of Washington, DC. This small piece of land is barely above sea level and its 500 residents are fighting for its survival.

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Continuous Rising Waters Prompt Large Scale Evacuation In Bangkok, Thailand

Residents fled Thailand’s capital, Bangkok, on Thursday after authorities warned the city would soon be flooded and called a special five-day holiday to let people escape.

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North Sea Oil Spill Risk Unacceptably High

News, Pollution

The European commission has warned that the likelihood of a Deepwater Horizon-type accident in the North Sea remains “unacceptably high” as it outlined new laws to counter the danger.

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Small nations push climate at Commonwealth talks

Pacific islands and other low-lying countries experiencing global warming consequences and rising seas, will use a Commonwealth summit this week to ramp up pressure in the climate change debate, on powerful and majors polluters – the United States and China – that are not doing enough to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

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Climate: Which Nations, Cities Most At Risk?

A third of humanity, mostly in Africa and South Asia, face the biggest risks from climate change, and rich nations in northern Europe will be least exposed, according to a report released Wednesday, by Maplecroft, a British firm specialising in risk analysis.

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Seven Billion And Counting

How is the changing global population affecting people’s daily lives? With the UN set to announce that there are now seven billion people on the planet, BBC News reporters spoke to seven people from around the world to hear their stories.

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Recent / Inform

7 Ways to Kick the Plastic Habits

September 17th, 2010

One real culprit of our oil addiction is plastic, and most of it ends up on our coasts, beaches and oceans.

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Waikiki Beach Replenishment

September 17th, 2010

On the Waikiki shoreline, what’s here today will be gone tomorrow.

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Exploring links between Ocean Warming, Stronger Hurricanes and low-lying coastal zones


September 15th, 2010

In an interview with Yale Environment, MIT meteorologist discusses current thinking on how higher sea surface temperatures are likely to lead to stronger hurricanes, thus believing subsidies and bailouts encouraging people to live in vulnerable, low-lying coastal zones are folly.

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Melting sea ice forces walruses ashore in Alaska


September 14th, 2010

Massive super-herds of walrus are being forced onto dry land because of a lack of sea ice, the World Wildlife Fund reports. Discovery News UGC video shows an estimated 10,000 animals gathered in Point Lay, Alaska. This massive move to shore by walruses is unusual in the United States.

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Ending the Oceans’ ‘Tragedy of the Commons’

September 14th, 2010

Leading international marine scientists are proposing radical changes in the governance of the world’s oceans to rescue them from overfishing, pollution and other human impacts.

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Expanding Hypoxic Areas in Coastal Waters

September 14th, 2010

Unnatural levels of hypoxia, which occur mostly in the summer, are primarily the result of human activities that deliver nutrients such as nitrogen and phosphorous into waterways.

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Annual International Coastal Cleanup Day, 2010

September 12th, 2010

Sign up for the 25th Annual International Coastal Cleanup Day: September 25th, 2010. Be part of the solution to marine and coastal pollution!

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New York City and Risk of Higher Seas

September 12th, 2010

Sea level may rise faster near New York than at most other densely populated ports, thus it has become an urban experiment in the ways that seaboard cities can adapt to climate change over the next century.

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Coral Reef and Planet’s Changing Sea Levels

September 10th, 2010

By studying ancient coral, scientists are hoping to put together the most accurate picture yet of how sea levels have changed over thousands of years.

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Tar balls coat Indian beaches

September 8th, 2010

Semisolid lumps of oil formed layers up to six inches deep (15 centimeters) on the renowned Goa beaches.

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