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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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Shifting Sands and Rising Seas

“In a time of rising seas, it is senseless and dangerous to build on barrier islands.” World-renowned coastal geologist Orrin H. Pilkey and artist Mary Edna Fraser, an internationally recognized master of the textile art of batik, bring an understanding of coastal geology and global change to the public in a way that is scientifically astute and visually intriguing. By Celie Daily and Orrin Pilkey.

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Death by Plastic: Is Ocean Plastic Garbage Killing Whales?

News, Pollution
Jul
10

From the coasts of California to Adriatic, Tasmania or Normandy, millions of tonnes of plastic debris dumped each year in the world’s oceans, could pose a lethal threat to whales, according to a scientific assessment to be presented at the International Whaling Commission this week. Ingestion of plastic refuse is emerging as a serious cause of disability and death for the large ocean-dwelling mammals.

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Viruses Bathe at the Beach Too, European Study Finds

News, Pollution
Jul
9

European researchers have found viruses in nearly 40% of more than 1,400 bathing water samples gathered from coastal and inland areas in nine countries.

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Australia Carbon Pollution Tax Announcement: A Start!

Australia Prime Minister Julia Gillard, is on Sunday due to unveil the full detail of her carbon tax legislation, which will see the country’s top 500 polluters charged per tonne of carbon dioxide they emit into the atmosphere.

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Puerto Rico coast still ruled by 1886 law

A Spanish law crafted in 1886 still governs development along Puerto Rico’s sprawling coastline, worrying activists and legislators who say the ancient mandate has allowed construction along ecologically sensitive beaches.

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Outrage At Drilling Permit For Australia Reef

UNESCO just listed Australian western Ningaloo coast as a World Heritage site late last month due to its reef, sea turtles and white whales.But environmentalists expressed outrage after the Australian government green-lighted a proposal from Shell to explore for gas nearby.

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Oil and gas spills in North Sea every week

News, Pollution
Jul
7

According to an investigative report and documents obtained in Britain, serious and largely unpublicised spills of oil and gas from North Sea platforms, are occurring at the rate of one a week.

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Red Knots Shorebirds and Horseshoe Crabs Knotted Together

A shorebird species whose population has plummeted over the last 15 years, has been directly tied to the number of egg-laying horseshoe crabs. This is one of the first studies to scientifically support the ecological links between these two species.

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Mass tourism threatening Venice lagoon

An Italian environmental group warned that mass tourism is slowly eroding the Venice lagoon, which it said is also threatened by major real estate development and an inadequate transport network.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
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