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

Rate Of Coastal Wetlands Loss Has Sped Up


The U.S. lost an average of 80,000 acres of coastal wetlands from 2004 to 2009, according to the latest data published by federal agencies. More than 70 percent of the estimated loss came in the Gulf of Mexico; nationwide, most of the loss was blamed on development that incurred on freshwater wetlands.

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Holidays on the Oil Spill Front Lines


While BP continues to spend millions on slick TV commercials touting the good times in the Gulf, local communities are still feeling the effects of the country’s worst oil spill in history.

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Top 5 Threats To The World’s Beaches (And A Systemic Solution)


Professors Orrin Pilkey and Andrew Cooper are writing what promises to be an outstanding book. In The Last Beach (to be published this summer by Duke University Press), they describe the top five threats to beaches around the world. Even a quick overview of these threats suggests a strategy for confronting the degradation and loss of beaches.

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Water Integrity In Action: Curbing Illegal Sand Mining in Sri Lanka

News, Sand Mining

This first publication in the WIN series “Water Integrity in Action” explores how the island nation of Sri Lanka has managed to curb illegal sand mining along two of its major rivers, Maha Oya and Deduru Oya.

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U.S. Interior Chief Stunned By Eroding S.C Island


From the beach on this seven-mile-long natural landmark, U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell stared carefully at the eerie landscape of fallen and broken trees. Once majestic hardwoods and sturdy palms, the trees were the dead victims of an encroaching sea.

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Sand Moved To Cover Waikiki Beach Erosion Swept Away, Video


Just a day after crews tackled an erosion problem at Kuhio Beach in Waikiki, half of the sand they brought in was washed away, according to city officials.

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The Landscape Can Protect Our Health, If We Can Protect The Landscape


Friday marks the final day of the United Nations COP19 climate change conference in Warsaw, Poland. One issue intersecting both global warming and extreme weather has received little attention: how changes to the natural landscape may be putting public health at greater risk…

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EPA Investigates Plastic Pollution on Hawaiian Beaches

News, Pollution

EPA will study Tern island, in the northwestern Hawaiian Islands, that is often littered with plastic debris to see if the area qualifies to be listed as a Superfund site, a federal designation for areas with hazardous waste in need of clean up.

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Dolphin Shows Gratitude to the Fishermen Who Rescued It From Plastic Bag


A group of fisherman off the coast of São Paolo, Brazil, had their fishing trip transformed into a rescue mission for one adorable creature of the sea. In a dramatic video uploaded to YouTube, the fishermen spot a young dolphin caught in a plastic bag. This remind us that we need to protect the ocean and the animals that call it home.

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Recent / Inform

IPCC “Conservative” On Sea Level Rise


October 11th, 2013

The international scientific community’s new assessment of the estimated sea level rise caused by global warming is a significant development, but experts say the projections for higher sea levels in the IPCC assessment report (AR5) are still on the low side. The projections are of immediate concern to low-lying countries and small island states.

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Sharks: Feared Or Revered, But Rarely Understood – In Pictures


October 10th, 2013

A photo gallery from Thomas P Peschak’s book, Sharks and People.

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UN To Study Ramifications Of Sand Mining


October 10th, 2013

Sand mining, a major environmental concern, will soon get international attention after it was included in the list of the new and emerging issues by the United Nations.

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Extrusive Volcanism Formed the Hawaiian Islands


October 9th, 2013

A recent study changes the understanding of how the Hawaiian Islands formed. Scientists have determined that it is the eruptions of lava on the surface, extrusion, which grow Hawaiian volcanoes, rather than internal emplacement of magma, as was previously thought.

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Sand Wars: U.S. Coastal Towns In The Market For Sand


October 9th, 2013

Sand wars: U.S. coastal towns in the market for sand, a CBS video.

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Plastic Waste Threatens Lakes As Well As Oceans


October 7th, 2013

Pollution with plastic waste is not confined to the oceans but poses a growing threat to lakes as well.

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Sponges Help Coral Reefs Thrive In Ocean Deserts


October 7th, 2013

The mystery of how coral reefs thrive in “ocean deserts” has been solved, scientists say.

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How Not to Love Nature: Shove a Coal Plant Next to Earth’s Biggest Mangrove Forest


October 6th, 2013

Tigers have long provided the best defense for Bangladesh’s Sundarbans National Park, the planet’s largest mangrove forest and a UNESCO World Heritage site. These days, however, environmentalists are alarmed by a more insidious threat to the park’s future: a massive 1,320-MW coal-fired power plant that’s due to be constructed just 14 km away, in the city of Rampal.

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A Quest For Resilient Reefs


October 5th, 2013

All the coral reefs in the world together occupy less than one percent of the ocean seafloor, a tiny area of the global ocean. Yet 25 percent all ocean species, an estimated 9 million species, are found on coral reefs. Also, coral reefs are barriers that protect coastlines from sea-level rise and storm surges. It is estimated that coral reefs provide about $375 billion to the global economy each year.

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Fukushima Leaks: Radioactive Water Overflows Tank Into The Sea


October 4th, 2013

Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant has a new leak of radioactive water after workers overfilled a storage tank, its operator says. Around 430 litres (100 gallons) of water may have leaked from the tank, and could have flowed into the sea.

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