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

NASA’s Front Porch View of Rising Seas

For the past two centuries, two trends have been steady and clear around the United States. Sea level has been rising, and more people have been moving closer to the coast.

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Unrestrained Fossil Fuel Burning Could Drown World’s Major Cities

Burning all of Earth’s fossil fuels would trigger enough global warming to completely melt the Antarctic ice sheet. It would cause sea levels to rise by 200 feet (60 meters), drowning land around the world that is currently home to more than a billion people, the researchers said in the study.

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24 Unusual Beaches You Might Never Have Heard Of Before

Celebrate, Inform

A singing beach, a glowing beach, a beach with rainbow-colored sand — here are the most offbeat seaside destinations you’ll find on Earth.

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NOAA: El Niño May Accelerate Nuisance Flooding

According to a new NOAA report, many mid-Atlantic and West Coast communities could see the highest number of nuisance flooding days on record through April due to higher sea levels and more frequent storm surge, compounded by the strengthening El Niño, which is likely to continue into the spring.

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Delayed Effects of Oil Spill Compromise Long-Term Fish Survival

A new study concludes that the impacts of the Exxon Valdez spill on nearshore spawning populations of fish are likely to have been considerably underestimated in terms of both the geographic extent of affected habitat and the lingering toxicity of low levels of oil. The findings will likely contribute to more accurate assessments of the impacts of future oil spills

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NOAA Fisheries Input on Sand Mining Helps Protect Key Fish Habitat

Sand, not gold, has since become one of the world’s most precious and finite resources originating in California’s mountains. NOAA Fisheries is working with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and industry to understand the effect that sand mining could have on important fish habitat.

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Editorial – Wrong Direction on Beach Groins

Groins don’t really work. They stop or slow erosion in the immediate vicinity, but worsen erosion farther down the beach by halting the natural flow of sand. Beach sand migrates, especially as ocean levels rise. Trying to stop its natural course is potentially expensive folly.

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World Running Out of Time to Save Oceans, UN Assessment

The United Nations is posting a new environmental warning: the world is running out of time to prevent the gradual degradation of the world’s oceans and the widespread destruction of marine life. Comprising 55 chapters, the first World Ocean Assessment will be presented to the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole at a meeting scheduled to take place Sep. 8-11.

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Built on Sand: Singapore and the New State of Risk

The island’s expansion has been a colossal undertaking. It is not merely a matter of coastal reclamation: Singapore is growing vertically as well as horizontally. This means that the nation’s market needs fine river sand—used for beaches and concrete—as well as coarse sea sand to create new ground.

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Recent / Inform

Climate Change Threatens China’s Booming Coastal Cities, Says Expert

July 27th, 2015

A recent study led by Georgina Mace, ecosystem professor at University College London, indicated that governments across the world have failed to grasp the risk that population booms in coastal cities pose as climate change continues to cause rises in sea levels and extreme weather events.

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Mangroves Help Protect Against Sea Level Rise


July 27th, 2015

Mangrove forests could play a crucial role in protecting coastal areas from sea level rise caused by climate change, according to new research involving the University of Southampton.

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Detailed Flood Information Key to More Reliable Coastal Storm Impact Estimates


July 24th, 2015

A new study that looked in part at how damage estimates evolve following a storm puts the total amount of building damage caused by Hurricane Sandy for all evaluated counties in New York at $23 billion. Estimates of damage by county ranged from $380 million to $5.9 billion.

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Stagnant Summer Days on the Rise

July 24th, 2015

Since climate change is expected to usher in more oppressive heat waves, the number of days with stagnant air will likely go up, which could mean more days with bad air quality, if nothing is done to combat pollution.

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In Miami, Worries About Cuba Include Grains of Sand (!)

July 24th, 2015

For some, concerns over the tourism threat Cuba poses to Miami have reached the granular level.

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Way Cleared for Shell to Start Drilling in Arctic Ocean

July 23rd, 2015

The Obama administration cleared the way on Wednesday for Shell to start drilling in the Arctic Ocean this summer.

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What Should You Do if a Shark Attacks? A) Fight it? B) Play Dead? C) Swim Away?

July 22nd, 2015

Mick Fanning’s narrow escape is a reminder that there are ways surfers can have a fighting chance when faced by the jaws of a shark. The best thing to do, according to the University of Florida’s international shark attack file, is “leave the water – swim quickly but smoothly”…

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The Demand for Sand is so High There are Illegal Sand Mining Operations

July 20th, 2015

Sand isn’t just for beaches. The tiny grains show up in many products of the industrialized world: in the glass and concrete that build cities, in detergents and cosmetics that people use daily, and in the silicon chips and solar panels of advanced technology. But sand comes from rocks that take thousands of years to erode into fine particles, and humans are using it faster than they should.

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Preventing Ecocide in South China Sea

July 20th, 2015

Land reclamation in the South China Sea could be damaging irreplaceable reef ecosystems, threatening the food security of millions. It’s time for a treaty, says leading scientist.

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Carbon Dioxide Pools Discovered in Aegean Sea

July 20th, 2015

The location of the second largest volcanic eruption in human history, the waters off Greece’s Santorini are the site of newly discovered opalescent pools forming at 250 meters depth.

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