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

Oyster Shells Are an Antacid to the Oceans


By studying oyster populations in relation to acidity levels, a team of researchers has concluded that oysters, particularly their shells, can play a significant role in reducing the increasing ocean’s acidity…

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Ice in Motion


Maps and visualizations of the Arctic often give the impression that the ice cap is a continuous sheet of stationary ice. It is actually a collection of smaller pieces that constantly shift, crack, and grind against one another as they are jostled by winds and ocean currents.

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Preventing Erosion: Liberia Gets Tough on Illegal Sand Miners, Raid Beaches

News, Sand Mining

The Lands Mines and Energy Ministry Monday arrested several illegal sand miners s in several beach communities around Monrovia.

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Hands Across The Sand, Miami 2013

News, Pollution

On Saturday, weekend beach-goers and environmental activists joined hands along Miami Beach to take a stand against the U.S. dependence on oil and to promote clean energy resources.

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The Making of The Hyogo2 Disaster Prevention Treaty


A month after the Indian Ocean tsunami struck in December 2004, affecting millions, 168 countries signed on to a 10-year plan to make the world safer from natural hazards (HFA). While the HFA has helped countries reduce the loss of human lives, the economic consequences of natural disasters have continued to rise. For three consecutive years, natural hazards have cost the world more than US$100 billion a year.

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Ruling Favors Rebuilding Septic Systems on Beach


A line of decrepit cottages along what was once Seagull Drive in South Nags Head has stood for more than three years as testimony to long-running legal battles between the state, the town and property owners.

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Coastal Erosion, Senegal


In the Senegalese town of Saint Louis, rising sea levels means that every year the sea gets closer to peoples homes and it is now just a matter of when, not if, their houses are swept away.

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Melting Glaciers Cause One-Third of Sea-Level Rise


The world’s glaciers lost 260 gigatons of water each year between 2003 and 2009, making these rivers of ice responsible for almost a third of sea-level rise in that time, new research finds.

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Earth’s Mantle Affects Sea Level Rise Estimates


Scientists have to be careful when looking at Earth for evidence of past sea level changes from the planet’s cycles of glacial advance and retreat.

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Recent / Inform

Rivers of blood: the dead pigs rotting in China’s water supply


March 29th, 2013

Standing on the quay, Mrs Wu jokes that there are more pigs than fish in Jiapingtang river. But she isn’t smiling…

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Community Exposure to Tsunami Hazards in California


March 28th, 2013

Evidence of past events and modeling of potential events suggest that tsunamis are significant threats to low-lying communities on the California coast.

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Hope for Galapagos Wildlife


March 27th, 2013

Increasing tourism and the spread of marine invasive non-native species is threatening the unique plant and marine life around the Galapagos Islands.

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More than half of U.S. rivers unsuitable for aquatic life, EPA


March 26th, 2013

More than half of the country’s rivers and streams are in poor biological health, unable to support healthy populations of aquatic insects and other creatures, according to a new nationwide survey released Tuesday.

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Pilot Whales Beached, South Africa


March 25th, 2013

Six of 19 pilot whales that were stranded Sunday on a beach in the South African city of Cape Town have died and authorities said they planned to euthanize some of the surviving whales.

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Empty Promises Over Sand Mining, Barbuda


March 24th, 2013

As sand mining in Barbuda continues, concerns mount as to when this practice will ever finally stop. Sand mining is a direct cause of erosion, and impacts local wildlife, it causes problems for those who rely on fishing for their livelihoods, as well as the destruction of picturesque beaches.

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Post Sandy Coastal Engineering Atrocity at Village of Southampton, In Pictures


March 24th, 2013

An example of brute force coastal protection at its worst: on the beach, at the village of Southampton.

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Kenya: Sand Mining Threatens To Displace Thousands


March 24th, 2013

Every day, 180 trucks chug their way to the banks of a river near Lake Victoria and leave laden with sand. Their cargo fuels Kenya’s construction boom and the local labour market, but the extraction could spell disaster for the village of Nyadorera.

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Icebergs and Sea Ice off the Mawson Coast


March 23rd, 2013

As the Antarctic summer drew to a close in March 2013, sea ice and icebergs floated along the Mawson Coast of East Antarctica. Ice shelves are thick slabs of ice attached to the coastline. Multiple ice shelves occur along the Antarctic Coast, and chunks are regularly breaking off into icebergs that get caught in the ocean currents and circle the continent for years.

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NOAA Considers Effects Of Oil And Gas Activities On Marine Animals And Alaska Native Communities,


March 23rd, 2013

NOAA announced that it is seeking comments on a supplemental draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for oil and gas activities in the Arctic Ocean. The draft includes analysis on how a broader range of potential offshore oil and gas activities could affect the environment, with a specific focus on marine mammals and the Alaska Native communities that depend on the animals for food and cultural traditions.

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