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

Champion of the Mangroves, Union Island, the Grenadines


On Union Island, Ann Harvey’s story of the mangroves demonstrates the protective power of nature and green infrastructure, while a recent UN report showed that valuable mangrove forests worldwide, are being wrecked by the shrimp and fish farms.

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A Rising Tide of Noise Is Now Easy to See

News, Pollution

The oceanic roar originates because of the remarkable, and highly selective, way in which different kinds of waves propagate through seawater. While sunlight can penetrate no more than a few hundred feet, sound waves can travel for hundreds of miles before diminishing to nothingness. In recent decades, raucous clatter have been added to the primal chorus…

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Caribbean Tsunami Risk Overlooked


Deadly tsunamis threaten Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the rest of the Caribbean and are an overlooked hazard in the region, geologists reported at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union last week.

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King tides test California coast, show what sea-level rise could mean


Some Californians were in for another day of ankle-deep seawater in low-lying coastal communities Friday as unusually high “king tides” pulled the Pacific farther ashore than normal.

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New Fracking Frontier Scares Residents

News, Sand Mining

Due to a rapid increase in demand, sand used in hydraulic fracturing, has become a valuable commodity, and sand mines are opening in the US at a rapid rate.

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History Has Lessons for Post-Sandy America, by John R. Gillis


In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, Americans are finally beginning to ask themselves whether or not it might be advisable to build up to the edge of the sea. It is dawning on us that we are dealing with a human-made rather than natural disaster…

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Does Economic Valuation Really Influence Coastal Policy?


Governments, corporations, and development agencies are increasingly interested in putting a dollar value on ecosystems in order to balance conservation and development needs, a concept known as “economic valuation.”

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Fish Have Enormous Nutrient Impacts On Marine Ecosystems


Fish play a far more important role as contributors of nutrients to marine ecosystems than previously thought, according to researchers at the University of Georgia and Florida International University.

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End The Global Trafficking In Polar Bear Products!


Polar bears are currently listed under CITES under Appendix II, as a species that is not necessarily now threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is closely controlled. With the polar bear sliding toward extinction, we must win a worldwide ban on the killing of polar bears for profit. Please Help End The Global Trafficking In Polar Bears: A NRDC Campaign.

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Recent / Inform

11 Islands That Will Vanish When Sea Level Rise


October 12th, 2012

According to the EPA, global sea level has risen by eight inches since 1870. This change is already affecting many low lying islands that have had to adapt. View a slideshow.

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West African Fishing Communities Drive Off Pirate Fishing Trawlers


October 11th, 2012

International vessels operating illegally in protected waters have stayed away after being filmed and identified by local fishers.

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Coastal Residents Warned of Excavation Consequences, Australia


October 11th, 2012

Officials are warning residents of coastal communities that excavating the entrances of lakes, lagoons and intermittently opening creeks can have long lasting and severe consequences for fish and fish habitat.

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Why Sea Levels Fell, Only to Rise Again


October 9th, 2012

From the beginning of 2010 until mid-2011, the average level of the world’s oceans dropped by 0.2 inches (5 millimeters). But how could this happen when average sea levels have been rising for decades?

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Response To Patrick Michaels Editorial


October 9th, 2012

Patrick Michaels is a long time (and very effective) denier of the importance of global climate change. He provides the ammunition for those who are predisposed to ignoring Mother Earth’s realities…

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Arctic Ice Melt, Sea Level Rise May Pose Imminent Threat To Island Nations


October 8th, 2012

Low-lying island nations threatened by rising sea levels this century could see the disastrous consequences of climate change far sooner than expected.

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Sea Change in Climate Adaptation Planning in Cuba


October 6th, 2012

Climate change exposes Cuba not only to more destructive hurricanes, but also to higher temperatures, recurrent drought and intense rains, while the projected rise in the sea level will endanger coastal areas.

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Whale Woe In The Atlantic


October 5th, 2012

Four decades of data show most whale deaths were caused by humans.

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BPA’s Real Threat May Be After It Has Metabolized


October 5th, 2012

Bisphenol A or BPA is a synthetic chemical widely used in the making of plastic products ranging from bottles and food can linings to toys and water supply lines. When these plastics degrade, BPA is released into the environment and routinely ingested.

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Farming in Bangladesh Stays Afloat, Literally


October 4th, 2012

Due to frequent flooding over the last 50 years, the farms around the capital of Dhaka, have turned into a wetland. For the residents rice cultivation is now only a memory. But, instead of cursing the havoc created by changing climate, the local inhabitants have made the best of a bad situation…

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