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

Mining For Smartphones – “Coast, Coral and Community,” A Documentary Series


A remote island of the Indonesian archipelago is being stripped off its forests and dug up for tin used in millions of mobile phones, tablets and laptops. Tin mining is taking its toll on the island’s coastline, damaging mangrove forests that help protect it from tropical storms and big waves.

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Three years after Japan tsunami, suspected debris arrive on Washington shores


Three years after an undersea earthquake and tsunami devastated Japan, the disaster’s aftermath is still being felt in ways large and small, far and wide. On a beach in southern Washington, approximately 4,500 miles across the Pacific Ocean, debris that may be from the tsunami is washing ashore.

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Humpback Whale Strandings In West Australia


An unprecedented number of mostly young whales have become stranded on the West Australian coast since 2008.

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Rules To Cut carbon Emissions: A First-Of-Its-Kind Study


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slated to release the nation’s first-ever carbon pollution standards for existing power plants on June 2, 2014. Syracuse and Harvard Universities teamed up to analyze how carbon pollution standards for existing power plants will decrease the emission of several co-pollutants, improve local air quality, decrease atmospheric deposition, and benefit people and ecosystems.

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The Evolution of Climate Legislation in Three Infographs


The global canon of climate legislation has undergone significant changes over the last four decades.

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Hurricane Sandy Impacts Did Not Contribute to Subsequent Storm Flooding, A Study


Flooding in coastal areas bordering Great South Bay, N.Y. and Barnegat Bay, N.J. caused by winter storms that occurred following Hurricane Sandy was not influenced by changes Sandy made to barrier islands or other bay features, according to a new USGS Study.

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Kauai Is Called The Garden Island: Here’s Why

Celebrate, Inform

Towards the end of the Hawaiian archipelago lives a small, rainy island called Kauai.

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Life-Giving Deltas Starved by Dams

Erosion, Inform

At a time when coastal areas are already battered by climate change, life-giving deltas are being sacrificed to dam building.

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Fiji Leads Pacific Region on Climate Adaptation Efforts


Still a long way off in many parts of the world, climate displacement is already a reality in the Pacific Islands, where rising seas are contaminating fresh water and agricultural land, and rendering some coastal areas uninhabitable.

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Recent / Inform

Ocean Acidification Robs Reef Fish Of Their Fear Of Predators


April 13th, 2014

Research on the behavior of coral reef fish at naturally-occurring carbon dioxide seeps in Milne Bay in eastern Papua New Guinea has shown that continuous exposure to increased levels of carbon dioxide dramatically alters the way fish respond to predators.

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On Fracking Front, A Push To Reduce Leaks of Methane


April 13th, 2014

Scientists, engineers, and government regulators are increasingly turning their attention to solving one of the chief environmental problems associated with fracking for natural gas and oil – significant leaks of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

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Future-Proof UK Coastal Areas Against Rising Sea Levels


April 11th, 2014

A clear national strategy is “urgently needed” to help future-proof coastal areas from rising sea levels and extreme weather, according to a report published by the National Trust, UK’s biggest coastal owners.

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Along Jersey Shore, Towns Build Sandcastle Dunes


April 11th, 2014

The hills of sand are supposed to act as fortresses that protect Jersey Shore communities from the ravages of the sea. But unless the sand can be stabilized by vegetation, one municipal engineer said, “They disappear like children’s sand castles at the end of the day.”

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Arctic Sea Ice Maximum 2014


April 9th, 2014

Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum on March 21, 2014. And while the year was not extraordinary—the fifth lowest extent in 36 years of satellite records—the trend continues to be.

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Beach Sand Mining in Monterey Bay Causes a Dustup


April 8th, 2014

California’s Monterey Bay boasts one of the nation’s most protected coastlines, situated within a federal sanctuary that imposes bans on everything from Jet Skis to offshore drilling. Yet most days, hundreds of tons of sand are harvested from one of its most picturesque beaches, in a mining operation now coming under increased state and local scrutiny.

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Wildlife Still Suffers Four Years After BP Oil Spill


April 8th, 2014

A report issued by the National Wildlife Federation summarized recent scientific studies on 14 different types of creatures affected by the spill.

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Alluvial Fan in Kazakhstan


April 8th, 2014

Mountain streams are usually confined to narrow channels and tend to transport sizable amounts of gravel, sand, clay, and silt, material that geologists call alluvium.

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Aged Black Carbon In Marine Sediments, A Study


April 8th, 2014

The study offers the first detailed analysis of how black carbon gets into deep ocean sediments, as well as an accounting of the types and amounts of black carbon found in those sediments.

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Coastal Barrier Resources System: Testimony of Robert S. Young, PhD


April 7th, 2014

The Us Congress will hold a hearing tomorrow, April 8th, on 9 separate bills that would remove properties and lands from the Coastal Barrier Resources System, and Robert S. Young, PhD, PG, will be presenting his Testimony on the issue.

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