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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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Plastic Pollution Present on Easter Island’s Beaches

News, Pollution
Apr
22

Easter Island, was the end point of a team of journalists’ trip with the 5 Gyres latest project, exploring plastic pollution in the South Pacific ocean. Upon arrival to one of the world’s most isolated pieces of habitable land, it was not long before the effects of human impact were seen: plastic pollution is taking place on Easter Islands: on the beaches.

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Record trash haul from New Jersey beaches

News, Pollution
Apr
22

In their Annual Beach Sweep report for 2010, released Tuesday, the environmental organization Clean Ocean Action, paints a grim picture of New Jersey beaches. The report broke down the 475,321 pieces of trash its 8,372 volunteers removed from New Jersey beaches during two statewide clean-up events last year.

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Endangered places around the world

In celebration of Earth Day, Gaute Hogh, publisher of the book 100 Places to Go Before They Disappear, was interviewed. The book features 100 photographs from one hundred different places around the world in risk of disappearing or seriously threatened by climate change.

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New Caledonia’s Lagoon: Better Understanding for Better Protection

New Caledonia possesses the second largest coral reef lagoon on Earth and harbours an exceptional biodiversity. The island is also the world’s third most important nickel producer. Ore extraction over the 20th Century has in places tripled the input of sediments and accompanying pollutants, such as metals, in the marine environment.

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Concerns Over Sand Mining and Beaches Alterations, Chennai Coast, India

News, Sand Mining
Apr
19

With the new Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) 2011 notification, exploiting the coastline of Chennai, East of India, becomes that much more difficult. But loop holes are found everywhere, and concerns mount over sand mining and other alterations of the beaches’ natural state.

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Arctic’s Icy Coastlines Retreat as Planet Warms

The coastline in Arctic regions reacts to climate change with increased erosion and retreats by half a metre per year on average. Less sea ice means more open water, which means stronger waves generated by wind. These, in combination with warming temperatures and more storms, mean more erosion of coastlines. Rising sea levels are also expected to enhance erosion.

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Tristan da Cunha islanders rescue penguins threatened by oil slick

News, Pollution
Apr
17

One of the world’s most dramatic wildlife rescues is coming to a successful conclusion on Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic. A small, remote coastal community has worked together to save 4,000 endangered oil-covered northern rockhopper penguins, after the freighter MV Oliva ran aground, spilling thick oil.

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A line in the Sand: Rebuilding Stradbroke Island After Sand Mining

News, Sand Mining
Apr
15

A line in the sand, that’s what the Queensland State Government is calling its decision to end sand mining on Stradbroke Island in eight years time. An ABC News video, depicting the dilemmas of a sustainable environment and a sustainable economy.

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Indonesian wins international prize for river clean-up

News, Pollution
Apr
14

A biologist who enlisted schoolchildren in his fight to clean up an Indonesian river that led to an international prize said he hoped young people will do more for the environment.

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