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

New Jersey’s Proposed Coastal Development Rules Miss The Mark, Critics Charge


Environmentalists say New Jersey’s proposed new rules for coastal development would place more people and property at risk from future storms like Superstorm Sandy.

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1 in 10 U.S. Beaches Fails Bacteria Test In Survey

News, Pollution

Swimmers, take heed: Ten percent of water samples taken from U.S. coastal and lake beaches fail to meet safety standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, a new report finds.

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East Riding Coastal Erosion, In Pictures

Erosion, Inform

The coast of East Riding of Yorkshire, UK, is eroding at the fastest rate in Europe. Erosion rates of up to 3.5 metres a year threatens property and roads.

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Liberia’s Poor and the Rising Sea


A report on the threat to the environment in Liberia released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) states that erosion in this West African country is causing the shoreline to recede in some cities, including Buchanan, Greenville, Harper and Robertsport, and that beach sand mining is also said to be the main contributing factor.

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Can Soft Coral Save Our Oceans?


New research has uncovered the protective properties of soft coral tissue, which proved resilient when exposed to declining oceanic pH levels, and may provide a new approach toward preserving the harder, calcified reef foundations.

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Study Links Greenland Ice Sheet Collapse, Sea Level Rise 400,000 Years Ago


A new study suggests that a warming period more than 400,000 years ago pushed the Greenland ice sheet past its stability threshold, resulting in a nearly complete deglaciation of southern Greenland and raising global sea levels some 4-6 meters.

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Plastic Waste Causes $13 Billion In Annual Damage To Marine Ecosystems, UN

News, Pollution

Concern is growing over widespread plastic waste that is threatening marine life – with conservative yearly estimates of $13 billion in financial damage to marine ecosystems, according to two reports issued at the inaugural meeting of the United Nations Environment Assembly.

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Glaciar San Quintín, Chilé


San Quintín Glacier is situated within Laguna San Rafael National Park and drains west toward the Pacific Ocean.

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Understanding the Ocean’s Role in Greenland Glacier Melt


Scientists think that the accelerated rate of ice sheet melt might be due to warmer ocean waters melting on the underside of the ice, where the glaciers extend into the ocean. Little, however, is known about this “submarine melting,” it has not been directly measured at any of Greenland’s major outlet glaciers.

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Recent / Inform

The Physics of Ocean Undertow: Creating More Robust And Sustainable Beaches?


May 13th, 2014

People standing on a beach often feel the water tugging the sand away from under their feet. This is the undertow, the current that pulls water back into the ocean after a wave breaks on the beach. Large storms produce strong undertows that can strip beaches of sand.

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Treasured Island, Tangier, VA


May 12th, 2014

The people of Tangier Island fear their life, land and heritage could wash away. Though only 12 miles off the coast of Virginia, Tangier is struggling to, literally, stay afloat.

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West Antarctic Glacier Loss Appears Unstoppable


May 12th, 2014

A new study by researchers at NASA, finds a rapidly melting section of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet appears to be in an irreversible state of decline, with nothing to stop the glaciers in this area from melting into the sea.

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Closure Of Illegal Beach Sand Quarries, Togo


May 10th, 2014

The Togolese Minister of Mines, Noupokou Dammipi, said that the recent decision by the Government to close down 90% of the illegal sand quarries, was justified by reasons pertaining to environmental protection.

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Gladstone Dredging Project Not Consistent With Best Practice, Australia


May 10th, 2014

A dredging project at Gladstone harbor, Queensland, which coincided with the deaths of a large number of fish was deficient in its decision making and construction, a report instigated by the federal government has found.

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Back To The Future To Determine If Sea Level Rise Is Accelerating


May 10th, 2014

Scientists have developed a new method for revealing how sea levels might rise around the world throughout the 21st century , analyzing data from 10 long-term sea level monitoring stations located around the world.

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Toxicologists Outline Key Health And Environmental Concerns Associated With Hydraulic Fracturing


May 10th, 2014

Scientists outline how toxicological sciences can be used to determine what risks may be associated with fracking.

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Kiribati Bans Fishing in Crucial Marine Sanctuary


May 9th, 2014

The ban would allow populations of fish depleted by excessive fishing to return to natural levels in the Phoenix Islands Protected Area (PIPA), a patch of ocean the size of California studded with pristine, uninhabited atolls, making this potentially the most effective marine reserve in the world.

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Beach Sand Mining Detrimental Effects Explained, Saint- Louis, Senegal


May 9th, 2014

Environmental expert Babacar Gaye explains how gravely coastal erosion is affecting Senegal, notably underlying the detrimental consequences of sand mining in Saint-Louis’ region (Barbary Tongue).

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A Siege of Salt and Sand, Official Trailer


May 8th, 2014

Caught between the corrupting sea and the hungry desert, Tunisia today faces a catastrophic convergence of climate chaos… Filmmakers Radhouane Addala and ST McNeil are traveling across Tunisia to visualize the fallout of climate change today in North Africa.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
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