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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

Mapping the World’s Ocean Ecosystems

To meet the need for a consistent, objective, and complete description of open-ocean environments, the USGS formed a public-private partnership with ESRI, NOAA, academia, and non-profit organizations to produce the first ever detailed maps that group the entire global ocean into 37 distinct 3D ecosystems.

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Chesapeake Bay pollution extends to early 19th century

News, Pollution
Apr
26

Humans began measurably and negatively impacting water quality in the Chesapeake Bay in the first half of the 19th century, according to a study of eastern oysters.

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Predicting the movement, impacts of microplastic pollution

News, Pollution
Apr
26

Microplastics are of increasing concern. They not only become more relevant as other plastic marine litter breaks down into tiny particles, they also interact with species in a range of marine habitats. A new study takes a look at how global climate change and the impact of changing ocean circulation affects the distribution of marine microplastic litter.

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How Singapore is creating more land for itself

The island off the southern tip of Malaysia reveals the future of building in an epoch of dwindling territory.

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Sea Floor Erosion in Coral Reef Ecosystems Leaves Coastal Communities at Risk

In the first ecosystem-wide study of changing sea depths at five large coral reef tracts in Florida, the Caribbean and Hawai’i, U.S.G.S researchers found the sea floor is eroding in all five places, and the reefs cannot keep pace with sea level rise. As a result, coastal communities protected by the reefs are facing increased risks from storms, waves and erosion.

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Nicaragua’s South Caribbean Coast Improves Readiness for Climate Change

The effects of climate change have hit Nicaragua’s Caribbean coastal regions hard in the last decade and have forced the authorities and local residents to take protection and adaptation measures to address the phenomenon that has gradually undermined their safety and changed their way of life.

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The Vanishing Nile: A Great River Faces a Multitude of Threats

Dam, Erosion, Inform
Apr
22

The Nile River is under assault on two fronts – a massive dam under construction upstream in Ethiopia and rising sea levels leading to saltwater intrusion downstream.

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Blooming Gibraltar

Inform
Apr
21

At the strait’s narrowest point, Africa stands just 14 kilometers (9 miles) from Europe. But the narrow waterway is a complex environment that gives rise to striking phytoplankton blooms when conditions are right.

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Trillions of Plastic Bits, Swept Up by Current, Are Littering Arctic Waters

News, Pollution
Apr
20

Pollution is now as dense in the northernmost ocean as it is in the Atlantic and Pacific..

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Recent / Inform

The Vanishing Nile: A Great River Faces a Multitude of Threats

April 22nd, 2017

The Nile River is under assault on two fronts – a massive dam under construction upstream in Ethiopia and rising sea levels leading to saltwater intrusion downstream.

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Blooming Gibraltar

April 21st, 2017

At the strait’s narrowest point, Africa stands just 14 kilometers (9 miles) from Europe. But the narrow waterway is a complex environment that gives rise to striking phytoplankton blooms when conditions are right.

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Trillions of Plastic Bits, Swept Up by Current, Are Littering Arctic Waters

April 20th, 2017

Pollution is now as dense in the northernmost ocean as it is in the Atlantic and Pacific..

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Sea Level Rise Will Reshape U.S. Population In All 50 States

April 19th, 2017

Sea level rise could cause mass migrations that will affect not just the United States’ East Coast, but reshape communities deep in the heart of the country, according to new research published in the journal Nature Climate Change this week.

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Protecting Clipperton Island – The Most Remote Atoll on the Planet

April 19th, 2017

Though this French overseas territory is now considered a marine protected area, it still faces threats from overfishing, with sharks and other large marine life nearly vanishing.

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When rising seas transform risk into certainty

April 19th, 2017

Along parts of the East Coast, the entire system of insuring coastal property is beginning to break down.

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Top Scuba Diving Destinations: Marine Sanctuaries & Hope Spots

April 18th, 2017

When planning your next dive trip, set a course for a marine sanctuary or Hope Spot. These ecologically-diverse areas are known for unusual critters, animal migrations, or other features that warrant special protection. By visiting these areas, you’re investing in both local conservation efforts and exceptional diving memories.

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The Ocean Is Boiling’: The Complete Oral History of the 1969 Santa Barbara Oil Spill

April 18th, 2017

On January 28th, 1969, crude oil and gas erupted from a platform off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. Alarm over the disaster reverberated around the world, energizing the nascent environmental movement and leading to a slew of legislative changes.

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7 Facts about plastic bags that will change how you use them

April 18th, 2017

There’s no denying that plastic bags are bad for the environment. It’s well researched and well documented – and yet 160,000 plastic bags are still used every second around the world. This needs to change, so we’ve put together some facts that will change the way you (and your friends) use plastic bags (and hopefully stop you using them all together).

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Warning from IDB expert: Trinidad is shrinking

April 18th, 2017

Trinidad is shrinking and changing as it becomes increasingly vulnerable to storms, flooding and other natural disasters which cause coastal erosion and the retreating of the shoreline. In Columbus Bay, in West Trinidad, the coastline has retreated by 150 metres since 1994, losing 6.5 hectares of land.

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