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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

Living Shoreline Permitting Made Easier

The state of North Carolina is well on its way to making it easier for property owners to build living shorelines.

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Huge sunfish washes up in northern waters for first time in 130 years

A giant sunfish has washed up on a beach in Santa Barbara, California, the first time this particular species of the animal has been sighted in the northern hemisphere in 130 years.

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Savage South Georgia

The remote island may be inhospitable to humans, but it provides a home to major populations of wildlife.

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Alarm over failure to deal with Solomon Islands oil spill threat

News, Pollution
Mar
1

The environmental damage from an oil spill in the Solomon Islands has been worsened by a bauxite mining company’s continued loading operations near the site where a $30m bulk carrier went aground last month.

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A Troubling Discovery in the Deepest Ocean Trenches

News, Pollution
Feb
28

In the Mariana Trench, the lowest point in any ocean, every tiny animal tested had plastic pollution hiding in its gut.

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Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth

After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. But its benefits mask enormous dangers to the planet, to human health – and to culture itself.

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Cleaning New York’s filthy harbor with one billion oysters

News, Pollution
Feb
26

The New York Harbor for years has been polluted and depleted of marine life. But one nonprofit is working to clean the murky water and revive its long-lost ecosystem — one oyster at a time.

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A French beach cleared of homes shows NC the way; By Orrin H. Pilkey

Surprising to me, the French are ahead of the United States, and particularly ahead of North Carolina’s policies on preparation for the rising sea’s impact. The problems of the French coast are much like the problems of the Carolinas.

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High-tide flooding disrupts local economic activity

Evaluation of observed sea level rise impacts to date has emphasized sea level extremes, such as those from tropical cyclones. Far less is known about the consequences of more frequent high-tide flooding. Empirical analysis of the disruption caused by high-tide floods, also called nuisance or sunny-day floods, is challenging due to the short duration of these floods and their impacts.

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Recent / Inform

Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth

February 27th, 2019

After water, concrete is the most widely used substance on the planet. But its benefits mask enormous dangers to the planet, to human health – and to culture itself.

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Cleaning New York’s filthy harbor with one billion oysters

February 26th, 2019

The New York Harbor for years has been polluted and depleted of marine life. But one nonprofit is working to clean the murky water and revive its long-lost ecosystem — one oyster at a time.

Read More

A French beach cleared of homes shows NC the way; By Orrin H. Pilkey

February 25th, 2019

Surprising to me, the French are ahead of the United States, and particularly ahead of North Carolina’s policies on preparation for the rising sea’s impact. The problems of the French coast are much like the problems of the Carolinas.

Read More

High-tide flooding disrupts local economic activity

February 24th, 2019

Evaluation of observed sea level rise impacts to date has emphasized sea level extremes, such as those from tropical cyclones. Far less is known about the consequences of more frequent high-tide flooding. Empirical analysis of the disruption caused by high-tide floods, also called nuisance or sunny-day floods, is challenging due to the short duration of these floods and their impacts.

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Proximity to land determines how coral reef communities respond to climate change events

February 23rd, 2019

Severe weather and environmental disturbances, such as cyclones or thermal coral bleaching, affect specific areas of coral reefs differently, new research has shown.

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Island of garbage: the all-female voyage to battle Earth’s plastic crisis

February 23rd, 2019

Although inhabited and remote, South Sentinel island is covered with marine debris, mostly plastic. South Sentinel, Andaman Islands, Bay of Bengal. Captions and Photo: © SAF — Coastal Care Excerpts; Plastic is everywhere, and it’s not going anywhere – potentially posing serious risks to our health. A crew of scientists and activists is conducting a […]

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Private companies can no longer mine beaches in India

February 21st, 2019

Private beach sand miners can no longer mine the coasts of India, as per a Gazette notification by the Union Ministry of Mines which has just been made public.

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How coral bleaching threatens Caribbean communities

February 21st, 2019

A new study uses environmental, socioeconomic and management data from 30 Caribbean islands to identify which communities may be most at risk from the social and ecological effects of coral bleaching, which occurs when warm water causes coral polyps to expel algae living in their tissue.

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The Real Price of a Chocolate Bar: West Africa’s Rainforests

February 21st, 2019

Ivory Coast has lost more than 80 percent of its forests in the last 50 years, mainly to cocoa production. The government has a plan to turn over management of former forest to international chocolate manufacturers: Is it a conservation strategy or a land grab?.

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Sand mining in a dune system, Chile

February 19th, 2019

This is a normal situation here in this side of the world: when the legal go beyond the logic…

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