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.
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
To create perfect surfing conditions, nature needs to provide the right amount of deep-ocean swells, peculiar ocean-floor geography and wind. Coupled with sea-level rise, as beaches erode, the practice of beach replenishment – dredging and dumping sand to extend beaches and reclaim them from the ocean – is also destroying surf in some communities.
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While coral reef cover has declined by 50 percent throughout the Caribbean, Cuba has managed to retain some of the most pristine coral reef environments on earth. Lack of coastal development, limited tourism, small amounts of runoff flowing into the sea, tight controls on commercial fishing, and the establishment of extensive marine protected areas have all combined to give Cuba the most remarkable coral reef environments in the Caribbean.
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Hundreds of millions of tons of sand and dust particles are lifted from North African deserts each year and carried across the Atlantic Ocean to South America. The trans-continental journey of dust is important because of what is often in the dust…
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A consortium of environmental scientists has expressed strong concern about the impact of a controversial Central American canal across Nicaragua, to connect the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.
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The sands on the beaches of this Brazilian tourist mecca are heavily polluted, mainly thanks to trash left behind by beachgoers, experts told EFE. Rio de Janeiro’s world-famous Copacabana and Ipanema are among the areas contaminated to the point that dermatologists recommend avoiding skin contact with the sand.
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Four years after the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident, Japan is still recovering and rebuilding from the disaster. The accident resulted in the largest unintentional release of radioactivity into the ocean in history…
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For almost a century, scientists have been puzzled by a process that is crucial to much of the life in Earth’s oceans…
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Over the past 40 years Europe has developed the most comprehensive, ambitious and binding environmental legislation existing anywhere today. And with good reason: these standards should be seen as a unique economic advantage.
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French Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, will be presenting before this summer, a bill proposing to include the notion of ecological prejudice in the Civil Code, and to make reparation a legal obligation.
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