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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

Expanding Hypoxic Areas in Coastal Waters

News, Pollution
Sep
14

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

News, Pollution
Sep
12

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

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

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

News, Pollution
Sep
8

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

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Barrier islands and sea-level rise

Over the next 100 years, according to recent estimates, we should expect 5 to 6 feet of sea-level rise.

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California Lawmakers Reject Plastic Shopping Bag Ban

News, Pollution
Sep
1

The measure offered California an opportunity to emerge at the forefront of a global trend, however, lawmakers have rejected a bill seeking to ban plastic shopping bags.

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Algae Blankets China Beaches

News, Pollution
Aug
31

The algae bloom, or green tide, covered more than 170 square miles (440 square kilometers) of coasts south of Qingdao.

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Health testing way down at California beaches

News, Pollution
Aug
31

Health testing of California’s beaches has slumped to its lowest level since ocean monitoring became law more than a decade ago.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
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