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

Gulf Eats Away at Coast Outside Levee-Protected New Orleans

Erosion, Inform

In the past century, more than 1,880 square miles of Louisiana land has turned into open water — an area nearly the size of Delaware. And the loss continues unabated, with an estimated 17 square miles disappearing on average each year.

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Stop Mangrove Destruction In Indonesia To Slow Climate Change


The loss of Indonesia’s coastal mangrove forests for shrimp farming is a huge source of carbon emissions, writes Prodita Sabarini. But equally, a policy flip to preserve and recreate mangroves offers a major climate win.

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‘Overshoot Day’ 2015: Earth is Now Officially in the Red


Today is Earth Overshoot Day: that annual moment when humankind’s use of natural resources exceeds the planet’s ability to produce and replenish them. A call for action.

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Shores Are Final Frontier for Archaeology Project

Erosion, Inform

Archaeologists want to enlist the help of the public as they attempt to tackle what they describe as the “final frontier”: England’s coastline.

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Pilkey’s Call: Save The Beaches


Beaches move, and with rising sea levels they are moving faster. People try to slow or halt the process by dredging up sand or erecting imposing seawalls, but those are destructive and doomed efforts. To save the beaches, we must let beaches go where and how they want.

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10 Years After The Storm: Has New Orleans Learned The Lessons of Hurricane Katrina?


A decade after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, David Uberti goes in search of the people who were at the heart of its recovery, to understand what the city has gone through – and where it might be heading.

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Blooms off Both North American Coasts


Phytoplankton are to the ocean what grasses and other ground cover are to land: the primary producers, the basic food source and carbon recycler for the rest of the environment. Algae and other forms of phytoplankton are floating, plant-like organisms that soak up sunshine, sponge up nutrients, and create their own food (energy).

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Engineering away our natural defenses: An analysis of shoreline hardening in the US


Rapid coastal population growth and development are primary drivers of marine habitat degradation. Although shoreline hardening, a byproduct of development, can accelerate erosion and loss of beaches and tidal wetlands, it is a common practice globally. 22,842 km of continental U.S. shoreline, 14% of the total, has been hardened.

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Undamming Rivers: A Chance For New Clean Energy Source


Hydroelectric power is often touted as clean energy, but this claim is true only in the narrow sense of not causing air pollution. In many places, such as the U.S. East Coast, hydroelectric dams have damaged the ecological integrity of nearly every major river…

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Recent / Inform

Five Centuries of Flooding Events in the SW Netherlands; 1500–2000


June 9th, 2015

A new study shows that, from 1500 until 2000, about a third of floods in southwestern Netherlands were deliberately caused by humans during wartimes. Some of these inundations resulted in significant changes to the landscape, being as damaging as floods caused by heavy rainfall or storm surges.

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Oil Drilling in Arctic Ocean: A Push into Uncharted Waters


June 9th, 2015

As the U.S. and Russia take the first halting steps to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, experts say the harsh climate, icy seas, and lack of any infrastructure means a sizeable oil spill would be very difficult to clean up and could cause extensive environmental damage.

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Louisiana Environmental Group Warns Santa Barbara Oil Spill Cleanup Workers to Protect Their Health


June 9th, 2015

An open letter from the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN) and the Lower Mississippi Riverkeeper raised concerns towards those affected by the Santa Barbara Plains All American Pipeline spill who participated in the clean-up effort.

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Offshore Drilling and the NC Coast: Special Reports


June 8th, 2015

This is the first of more than 40 stories that will be published over the next two months on offshore drilling and its potential effects on the N.C. coast.

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End America’s Addiction to Fossil Fuels!


June 8th, 2015

The recent oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara is a powerful reminder of the devastating costs of America’s addiction to oil on our communities, beaches and wildlife. It’s time to invest in a clean energy future.

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Pipeline Firm Told California Oil Spill ‘Extremely Unlikely’


June 7th, 2015

Federal inspectors said the area near the break had earlier been repaired because of corrosion. At the break point, over 80 percent of the wall thickness of the pipeline had been eaten away. The pipeline, completed in 1990, is part of a network of lines that move crude oil to inland refineries. A handful of prior spills have taken place on the line, the largest about 1,200 gallons…

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Half the Dolphins Caught in Japan Hunt Exported Despite Global Outcry: Report


June 7th, 2015

About half of the live dolphins caught in the Japanese coastal town of Taiji were exported to China and other countries despite global criticism of the hunting technique used, a news report has said.

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Disappearing Beaches of India


June 6th, 2015

Beaches and coasts are amazing wonders of nature. India’s coastline stretches for around 7,500 kilometers. Yet, as much as 40% of India’s coastline is eroding at an alarming level, not only in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, but also in many other beaches.

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Diverse Corals Persist, But Bioerosion Escalates in Palau’s Low-pH Waters


June 6th, 2015

As the ocean absorbs atmospheric carbon dioxide released by the burning of fossil fuels, its chemistry is changing.

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Beaches in Danger: 10 Disappearing Shorelines


June 6th, 2015

When seas rise, it’s inevitable: beaches disappear. Add human interference with natural beach topography- channel dredging, sand replacement, seawalls, jetties – and it’s a recipe for disaster.

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