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

Global is the New Local: Pollution Changes Clouds, Climate Downstream


The residents of Beijing and Delhi are not the only ones feeling the effects of Asian air pollution, an unwanted byproduct of coal-fired economic development. The continent’s tainted air is known to cross the Pacific Ocean, adding to homegrown air-quality problems on the U.S. West Coast.

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To Save Coral Reefs, First Save the Mangroves


With coral reefs in decline and NOAA calling for a larger protected area for reefs in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Geological Survey scientists are pointing out another strategy to save reefs: First save the mangroves.

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Indian Trail Beach Erosion Project Moving Forward, MA


Sagamore Beach residents approved a mitigation project, consisting of building a revetment wall at the base of the eroding cliff, along with a stabilization system. Opponents said erosion is nature’s way of replenishing the shore. A revetment wall would block the natural flow of sand down the cliff, with the beach eventually being washed away.

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Liberia: Coastal Defense Paradox – Beach Sand Mining Persists


Despite claims by the government of Liberia that it is committed to a coastal defense plan in order to save the city of Buchanan from sea erosion, beach sand mining in Central and Upper Buchanan continues on a weekly basis.

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Hawaii’s Beaches Feature Rainbow of Colors


You might be surprised by the color of Hawaii’s famous beaches sand, it’s not always golden. You’ll find black sand, red sand and even green sand across the island chain.

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Where Has All the (Sea Trash) Plastic Gone?


When Spanish scientist Andres Cozar Cabanas compiled the first ever global map of ocean trash last July, he inadvertently uncovered a mystery. Much of the plastic he expected to find bobbing in the oceans, given a quadrupling of plastic production in recent years, had “disappeared…”

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Satellite Science Improves Storm Surge Forecasting Around the World


A new online resource which will help coastguards, meteorological organisations and scientific communities predict future storm surge patterns has been created.

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The Beach: a River of Sand

Erosion, Inform

You get up in the morning and go out on the beach. It is the same beach you walked on yesterday. Tomorrow you will go to the same beach and it will be there as always. The tide may have brought in some new shells or possibly some trash, but the beach is the beach. It hasn’t gone anywhere. That is an illusion.

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Greenland’s Hidden Meltwater Lakes Store Up Trouble


Scientists find evidence of vast ‘storage tanks’ of water deep below the melting Greenland ice sheet that could have a major effect on sea level rise.

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Recent / Inform

Antarctic Photo Science Archive Unlocked


December 20th, 2014

To probe the climate history of the Antarctic Peninsula, UK scientists are comparing aerial photos from the 1940s and 1950s images, with newly acquired data sets to assess the changes that have occurred in some of the region’s 400-plus glaciers.

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Cyclone College Raises Hopes, Dreams of India’s Vulnerable Fisherfolk


December 20th, 2014

The coastal village of Nemmeli in southern India’s Kachipuram district that saw widespread destruction in the 2004 tsunami and several cyclones since, now has a unique community college where locals can learn disaster management. Half the students are women.

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Rising Air and Sea Temperatures Continue to Trigger Changes in the Arctic


December 19th, 2014

A new NOAA-led report shows that Arctic air temperatures continue to rise at more than twice the rate of global air temperatures, a phenomenon known as Arctic amplification.

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Could New York’s Fracking Ban Have Domino Effect?


December 18th, 2014

New York’s decision to ban fracking for health reasons could reverberate beyond the state, bolstering other efforts to limit the controversial method of drilling for oil and natural gas.

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UN Sends Team to Clean Up Sunderbans Oil Spill in Bangladesh


December 18th, 2014

The United Nations said on Thursday it has sent a team of international experts to Bangladesh to help clean up the world’s largest mangrove forest, more than a week after it was hit by a huge oil spill.

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NOAA Establishes Tipping Points for Sea Level Rise Related Flooding


December 18th, 2014

By 2050, a majority of U.S. coastal areas are likely to be threatened by 30 or more days of flooding each year due to dramatically accelerating impacts from sea level rise, according to a new NOAA study.

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Acidic Oceans Could Quiet Coral Reefs


December 18th, 2014

Scientists have been monitoring underwater sounds for decades, in part because sound propagates so efficiently underwater. But in the past 10 years, scientists have started exploring how sonic cues influence fish behavior and give a snapshot of reef health and biodiversity.

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Aboriginal Knowledge Could Unlock Climate Solutions


December 17th, 2014

Environmental and Indigenous groups are urging the government to create new partnerships with indigenous Australians in climate adaptation and mitigation policies and also to tap into indigenous knowledge of natural resource management. A number of indigenous communities live in low-lying areas near wetlands, estuaries and river systems, and have lived in harmony with the land for generations.

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Oil Spill in Bangladesh’s Unique Mangrove Forest


December 17th, 2014

On December 12, three days after a cargo vessel collided with a tanker, oil coats mangrove trees in the Sundarbans, a delta that forms the world’s largest contiguous tidal mangrove forest—a haven for a spectacular diversity of animals. More than 90,000 gallons of oil have spilled into the rivers and creeks of the region.

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The Largest Vessel the World Has Ever Seen


December 16th, 2014

Painted a brilliant red, Prelude – a staggering 488m long vessel – looms over the Samsung Heavy Industries shipyard on Geoje Island in South Korea. Under construction for the energy giant Shell, the dimensions of the vessel are striking in their own right, but also as evidence of the sheer determination of the oil and gas industry to open up new sources of fuel.

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