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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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Sea Level Rise And The World’s Beaches, by Orrin H. Pilkey

Of all the various anticipated impacts of global climate change, sea level rise will likely be the first to produce a human catastrophe on a global scale. If our beaches are to survive for our grandchildren’s enjoyment, the time has come to plan the big withdrawal.

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Drawing up a Global “Red List” of Vanishing Ecosystems

Now scientists are figuring out how to catalog and map the world’s most threatened ecosystems, such as mangrove, just like their familiar list of endangered species.

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Did You Just Eat a Plastic Bag?

Blog, Pollution
Jan
7

How Plastic Pollution Has Entered Our Food Chain. Research is just beginning to show that we are consuming many other chemicals through our seafood, and our disposable plastic waste may be a potent source of this contamination.

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Uncontrolled Sand Mining Days Numbered, Namibia

While sand mining in the Swakop River is a crucial element of coastal development, concern is mounting over the uncontrolled sand mining taking place in the Swakop River, which is creating dangerous conditions as well as causing severe environmental damage.

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Bangladesh Sand to Help Keep the Maldives Afloat

After looking to buy land in other countries, Maldives, one of the lowest countries on the planet, with an average land level of 1.5 metres above sea level, is making a last-ditch effort to avoid its citizens becoming climate refugees. It is importing sand.

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Ban on plastic shopping bags, Italy

News, Pollution
Jan
3

A ban on plastic bags has come into effect January 1st, in Italy, which has one of the highest rates of consumption of the bags in Europe.

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250 billion plastic fragments in Mediterranean

News, Pollution
Dec
30

The estimate comes from French and Belgian marine biologists who analysed water samples taken in July off France, northern Italy and Spain. The figure derives from 4,371 minute pieces of plastic, average weight 1.8 milligrams (0.00006 of an ounce) found in the samples, which extrapolates to roughly 500 tonnes for the entire Mediterranean.

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What’s Outside Counts, Too: European Law and Excess Packaging

News, Pollution
Dec
27

The citizens of Lincolnshire, England, were so fed up with the layers of plastic and cardboard and Styrofoam that encased their store purchases this fall that they took a high-priced, highly wrapped piece of meat to court.

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Australia’s Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles is the name given to a collection of natural limestone stacks that rise up to 150ft (46m) from the sea and were formed by erosion of the original coastline, which began 10 to 20 million years ago.The coast is dynamic and as erosion is ongoing, some more stacks are collapsing while other “Apostles” are likely to form from further erosion of other rocky headlands that line the Victorian coastline.

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