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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

Surf’s Up: New Research Monitor Ocean Wave Behavior and Shore Impacts

Engineers have created a new type of “stereo vision” to use in studying ocean waves as they pound against the shore, providing a better way to understand and monitor this violent, ever-changing environment.

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Beach mining study bodes well for prospectors

News, Sand Mining
Jan
30

Beach mining has received favorable reviews in a two-year study conducted by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.

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50 Houses on Kiawah Sand

A documentary about proposed development at south end of Kiawah Island, produced by Mary Edna Fraser and Celie Dailey. Includes interviews with Dr. Orrin Pilkey, Professor of Earth Scieces at Duke University, and Nancy Vinson, Coastal Conservation League’s Program Director for Air and Water Quality.

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A Fiscal Analysis of Shifting Inlets and Terminal Groins in North Carolina

The debate about terminal groins, shore-perpendicular structures built at inlets in attempt to slow erosion, is worth keeping an eye on, whether you live in western North Carolina or in a coastal community, because it could cost you and our state a pretty penny.

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Research Pending into Old Bar beach Erosion, Australia

A feasibility study into an offshore reef to address coastal erosion at Old Bar, east of Taree, is due to start in March.

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Mercury in Bay Area: a Legacy of California Mining

News, Pollution
Jan
25

Mercury contamination, a worldwide environmental problem, has been called “public enemy No. 1” in California’s San Francisco Bay.

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Amnesty slams Shell over oil spills in Nigeria

News, Pollution
Jan
25

Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth have filed an official complaint against the firm Shell for shirking responsibility for oil spills in Nigeria and wreaking havoc on the environment. Environmentalists call the Niger Delta the global capital of oil pollution, but unlike the Gulf of Mexico, there are no underwater robots, flotillas of scientists or oil booms here.

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Tulum’s Dirty Beaches

Pollution
Jan
25

Lucy Gallagher of Mexiconservacion explains why some of Tulum’s beaches, Mexico, are so dirty.

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Climate change Litigation, A New Frontier ?

Today’s lawsuits may spur thinking about future liability risks among major emitters, creating awareness and thus also may have an impact on the actions of governments and corporations.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
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