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

Arctic Melt Pond


From above, Arctic ice looks quite different in summer than it does in winter. As temperatures rise in the summer, turquoise splotches of color begin to speckle the ice surfaces. The splashes of blue are melt ponds, areas where snow has melted and pooled in low spots on glaciers and sea ice.

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Why Restoring Wetlands Is More Critical Than Ever


Along the Delaware River estuary, efforts are underway to restore wetlands lost due to centuries of human activity. With sea levels rising, coastal communities there and and elsewhere in the U.S. and Europe are realizing the value of wetlands as important buffers against flooding and tidal surges.

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Science Panel Works To Update Sea-Level Rise Report, NC


A NC state-appointed science panel began work last week on an update to a controversial sea-level rise report, members of the panel said Thursday at a meeting of the Coastal Resources Commission.

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Thousands Of Blue Sea Creatures Called Velella Velellas Wash Ashore In California


The jellyfish-like invertebrates rarely washe ashore before the end of their lifespan. So when thousands of the tiny blue sea creatures recently turned up, en masse, on beaches in central California, many were surprised to see such a large amount of the beached marine life.

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Plastic, Poverty And Pollution In China’s Recycling Dead Zone

Inform, Pollution

Adam Minter, Bloomberg’s Shanghai correspondent, visited Wen’an, once at the heart of the global scrap plastic trade. In a never-before published extract from his book, “Junkyard Planet: Travels in the Billion-Dollar Trash Trade,” he describes the effects on workers’ health, and pollution incurred.

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10 Hidden Beaches, Bays And Walks On The UK Coastline

Celebrate, Inform

The British coast is dotted with magical spots few people visit or even know about. Here are 10 of the best.

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Huge Waves Measured For First Time in Arctic Ocean


A University of Washington researcher made the first study of waves in the middle of the Arctic Ocean, and detected house-sized waves during a September 2012 storm.

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Hawaii: Climate Wipeout


A new video series that depicts Americans living on the front lines of climate change zooms in on one of our favorite vacation spots.

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Nesting Gulf Sea Turtles Feed in Waters Filled With Threats


Nesting loggerhead sea turtles in the northern Gulf of Mexico feed among areas that were oiled by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill and where human activities occur, several of which are known to pose threats to sea turtles, a new U.S Geological study showed.

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Recent / Inform

A Fresh Start For Climate Change Refugees?


June 12th, 2014

The solutions on migration and climate change being proposed go beyond reinforcing planning mechanisms for countries facing natural disasters; they look also at the migration of affected populations to new countries, including relocation in the industrialised world and the employment possibilities that might be available.

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Deepwater Horizon Oil On Shore Identified, Even Years Later


June 12th, 2014

Years after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil spill, oil continues to wash ashore as oil-soaked “sand patties,” persists in salt marshes abutting the Gulf of Mexico, and questions remain about how much oil has been deposited on the seafloor.

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Earthscapes, By Andres Amador


June 12th, 2014

San Franciscan Andres Amador, 42, is an “earthscape” artist, using beaches as his canvas.

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Sand Mafia Behind Sudden Release Of Water?


June 11th, 2014

Environmental activists believe that dam officials are bribed by a sand mafia to open the gates at one go instead of releasing the water slowly, as is being done in other dams. The fast discharge of a huge volume of water leads to large amount of sand getting settled on riverbeds, which dry up fast.

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Erosion Nibbles Away at Cape Cod’s Coast


June 11th, 2014

“At the same time the population is moving towards the coast the coast is also moving to that population,” explained Rob Thieler of the U.S. Geological Survey Science Center in Woods Hole.

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New Insights Into The Dynamics Between Reef Corals And Their Algae


June 10th, 2014

Caribbean corals and the algae that inhabit them form a remarkably stable relationship, new knowledge that can serve as an important tool in preserving and restoring vital reef-building corals..

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Kiribati President Purchases Resettlement Land as Precaution Against Rising Sea


June 9th, 2014

Kiribati’s president, Anote Tong, said he bought land in Vanua Levu, Fiji’s second-largest island, so that his 103,000 people will have some high ground to go to when a rising sea makes his nation of 33 low-lying coral atolls unliveable.

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Scientists Explore Using Trees to Clean Pollution


June 9th, 2014

Before Houston and its suburbs were built, a dense forest naturally purified the coastal air along a stretch of the Texas Gulf Coast that grew thick with pecan, ash, live oak and hackberry trees.

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Plastic Legacy: Humankind’s Trash Is Now a New Rock


June 8th, 2014

Melted plastic trash on beaches can sometimes mix with sediment, basaltic lava fragments and organic debris (such as shells) to produce a new type of rock material, new research shows…

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8 Ways You Are Harming The Ocean And Don’t Even Know It


June 8th, 2014

Every year for World Oceans Day, on June 8, we get to profess our love for the 332.5 million cubic miles of our planet that’s made of water.

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