Inform

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

When lightning strikes the beach, it vaporizes the sand ⁠— and makes these glass tubes

Nihiwatu Beach, Sumba, Indonesia

When lightning strikes the beach or desert, the electricity vaporizes the sand in less than a second, creating a geological phenomenon you might have to see to believe.

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Seldom Seen: A Poignant Look Back at Glen Canyon Before the Dam

Dam, Erosion, Inform
Aug
16

Ken Sleight remembers the stunning beauty of Glen Canyon before it was flooded by a massive dam in the 1960s. Taylor Graham’s film “Seldom Seen Sleight” – winner of the Yale Environment 360 Video Contest – shows the magnificent landscape lost and offers hope it might someday be restored.

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It’s raining plastic: microscopic fibers fall from the sky in Rocky Mountains

News, Pollution
Aug
14

Discovery raises new questions about the amount of plastic waste permeating the air, water, and soil virtually everywhere on Earth

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Who will pay for the huge costs of holding back rising seas?

U.S. coastal cities face billions of dollars in costs for the extensive infrastructure projects needed to protect against rising seas and worsening storms. From Boston to Miami, government officials are only beginning to grasp the enormous expense of what will be required.

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More than half of U.S. beaches have fecal bacteria, environmentalists say

News, Pollution
Aug
9

Half the beaches in the U.S. have at least one day per summer season in which it’s not safe to swim because of elevated bacteria levels in the water, according to new report.

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Disposable plastic water bottles banned from San Francisco airport

News, Pollution
Aug
8

In an effort to make SFO more environmentally friendly, the airport is adding plastic water bottles to its list of restricted food service items starting August 20. The airport, just south of San Francisco, set a goal three years ago of becoming the world’s first zero-waste airport by 2021.

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Your favorite pristine beach is founded on mass invertebrate death

Beach managers import sand and constantly groom shores with heavy machinery, and a recent study in the journal Ecological Indicators shows these managed beaches have much fewer sand-dwelling critters than nearby natural ones.

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Sand stolen by tourists returned to Sardinian beaches

Local authorities and environmental experts have teamed up with Olbia Airport to return sand, pebbles and shells confiscated from travellers’ luggage to beaches on Sardinia’s famed ‘Emerald Coast’.

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Rockweed Rescue

UC Santa Barbara marine scientists to restore rocky intertidal seaweed to boost coastal biodiversity.

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Recent / Inform

Disposable plastic water bottles banned from San Francisco airport

August 8th, 2019

In an effort to make SFO more environmentally friendly, the airport is adding plastic water bottles to its list of restricted food service items starting August 20. The airport, just south of San Francisco, set a goal three years ago of becoming the world’s first zero-waste airport by 2021.

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Your favorite pristine beach is founded on mass invertebrate death

August 7th, 2019

Beach managers import sand and constantly groom shores with heavy machinery, and a recent study in the journal Ecological Indicators shows these managed beaches have much fewer sand-dwelling critters than nearby natural ones.

Read More

Sand stolen by tourists returned to Sardinian beaches

August 6th, 2019

Local authorities and environmental experts have teamed up with Olbia Airport to return sand, pebbles and shells confiscated from travellers’ luggage to beaches on Sardinia’s famed ‘Emerald Coast’.

Read More

Rockweed Rescue

August 5th, 2019

UC Santa Barbara marine scientists to restore rocky intertidal seaweed to boost coastal biodiversity.

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This Irish teenager may have a solution for a plastic-free ocean

August 2nd, 2019

A teenager from Ireland may have found a way to rescue our oceans from the growing plastic pollution problem.

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Non-lethal impacts of seabirds’ plastic ingestion

July 30th, 2019

A new study of seabirds that had ingested plastic debris has revealed a range of non-lethal impacts on their health and physiology. While seabird deaths due to swallowing plastic debris or becoming entangled in it have received global attention, the non-lethal effects on seabirds that survive plastic ingestion are less well-known.

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How to restore a coral reef

July 25th, 2019

New guidelines drafted by a consortium of concerned experts could enable corals to adapt to changing environments and help restore declining populations in the Caribbean. The guidelines provide a definitive plan for collecting, raising, and replanting corals that maximizes their potential for adaptation.

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Radiation in parts of Marshall Islands is higher than Chernobyl

July 24th, 2019

Radiation levels in parts of the Marshall Islands in the central Pacific Ocean, where the United States conducted nearly 70 nuclear tests during the Cold War, are still alarmingly high.

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Sun, Sand And Sewage: Report Shows Many U.S. Beaches Unsafe For Swimming

July 23rd, 2019

A new analysis details widespread bacterial contamination at U.S. beaches, with more than half of the tested sites exceeding a federal safety threshold at least once in 2018. Nearly 60% of the more than 4,500 beaches sampled in 2018 had at least one day of unsafe bacteria levels.

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Abu Dhabi is replanting mangroves in the fight against climate change

July 18th, 2019

The coastal city of Abu Dhabi is one of the most vulnerable places in the world to the impacts of climate change. It’s threatened by rising sea levels and researchers say it could be too hot to live in by the end of this century if global warming trends continue. But mangroves trees are helping the city fight the climate crisis…

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