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

Coastal erosion needs our attention

65 acres of Massachusetts coastline is carried away every year by raging storms and rising seas. That’s not a problem unless we build a house on the beach. Today, 40 percent of the commonwealth’s 1,500-mile shoreline is residentially occupied.

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In Tanzania, a Horrific Fishing Tactic Destroys All Sea Life

Strewn in the shallows of the Indian Ocean off Tanzania lie shards of dead coral reefs. Experts believe that in Tanzania, blast fishing is occurring at unprecedented rates, in part because a boom in mining and construction has made it easier for people to get their hands on dynamite.

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BHP dam disaster coats Brazil’s pristine beaches

News, Pollution

New Year’s is one of the most-important holidays for Brazilians, as many flee the big cities and crowd the shoreline. After the collapse, in November, of a dam holding back mining waste, 50 million metric tons of sludge is spreading now off the coast between Rio de Janeiro and Bahia states, turning the pristine blue waters brown along an expected 30 miles of beaches.

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Normal weather drives salt marsh erosion

Waves from moderate storms, rather than violent events such as hurricanes, inflict the most loss on coastal wetlands. Globally, salt marshes are being lost to waves, changes in land use, higher sea levels, loss of sediment from upstream dams and other factors.

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Cronulla’s sand dunes survived Mad Max but now face a more insidious threat

The once vast sand dunes in Sydney’s south have been farmed, trimmed down by sandmining, filmed and eroded by wind and rain. Now they face encroaching housing developments

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A Breathing Planet, Off Balance; Video

Earth’s oceans and land cover are doing us a favor. As people burn fossil fuels and clear forests, only half of the carbon dioxide released stays in the atmosphere, warming and altering Earth’s climate. The other half is removed from the air by the planet’s vegetation ecosystems and oceans. As carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere continue to rise, how long can this balancing act continue?

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Beach work: The billion-dollar question for New Jersey

Restoring eroded beaches was a billion-dollar problem in New Jersey even before Sandy. Towns have added sand to beaches for generations, yet sand drifts. So if a town manages to keep a beach in place on one block, chances are the beach on another block will erode twice as quickly.

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Piling sand to stop erosion ultimately made the land sink, study says

A new study underscores the unique difficulties Louisiana faces in maintaining its fragile delta and keeping the sea at bay: Researchers found work to replenish an eroding shoreline by pumping onto it massive amounts of sand itself caused the land to sink.

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Beijing highway: $600m road just the start of China’s investments in Caribbean

Stretching some 67 km north to south across Jamaica, the $600m four-lane nicknamed the “Beijing highway, is the single biggest investment by the Chinese in the Caribbean. This project is also prelude of the building of a $1.5bn deep water container port on islands off the south coast ,using dredging and land reclamation to accommodate mega ships coming through the expanded Panama Canal.

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Recent / Inform

Here’s How El Nino is Going to Wreck Your Life, Southern California

November 7th, 2015

El Niño, a warming of the Pacific Ocean, is causing the jet stream to direct storms into Southern California. El Niño storms are unpredictable. That can mean lightning strikes and high tides in the beach areas, flash floods in the high desert and mud flows in communities down stream of burn areas.

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California’s Crab Fiasco Is Worse for Marine Life Than Humans

November 6th, 2015

Something strange started happening to California sea lions. Over the course of just a few months, hundreds of them hauled themselves onto beaches near Monterey Bay and began convulsing uncontrollably.

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Obama Rejects Construction of Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

November 6th, 2015

President Obama today, announced that he had rejected the request from a Canadian company to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline, ending a seven-year review that had become a flash point in the debate over his climate policies.

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When Martinique Looses Its Most Beautiful Beaches, FWI

November 5th, 2015

Staggering! This is how was deemed the rate of coastal erosion affecting some of the most popular southern beaches of Martinique island, specifically in Sainte Anne area, at Les Salines Beach.

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Tar Balls Mar Portion of Cocoa Beach, Florida

November 5th, 2015

About a half mile to mile stretch of Cocoa Beach have been covered with tar balls and tar patties.

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Why Keystone XL Is Dead

November 4th, 2015

Once seeking a fast approval, TransCanada wants to pause the pipeline’s review. Why now?

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Antarctic Coast Meltdown Could Trigger Ice-Sheet Collapse

November 4th, 2015

Computer simulations suggest that unstable ice at continent’s edges eventually leads to metres of sea-level rise.

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Sand Waves: Juggernauts of the Outer Banks

November 3rd, 2015

These so called sand waves, named such because they were like a tidal wave of sand barreling down upon the islands, have the destructive force of a glacier – unstoppable, consuming all. Anything and everything in the path of these dunes will succumb to its slow march across the landscape…

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Nicaragua’s Interoceanic Canal, a Nightmare for Environmentalists

November 3rd, 2015

The international scientific community’s fears about the damage that will be caused by Nicaragua’s future interoceanic canal have been reinforced by the environmental impact assessment, which warns of serious environmental threats posed by the megaproject.

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Seaweed Can Help Feed the World. But will We Eat It?

November 3rd, 2015

Planet-wise, seaweed appears as a clear win. How about human-wise? Should we be eating more seaweed?

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