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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

As Ocean Temperatures Rise, Corals Are Steadily Moving Poleward

Rising ocean temperatures are increasingly causing coral reefs to shift away from the equator into more temperate waters. Over the past 40 years, the number of young corals has declined by 85 percent on tropical reefs, while at the same time doubling in cooler regions, according to a recent study.

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The Best White Sand Beaches in the World

Inform
Jul
11

From the Maldives to Panama City Beach, there’s something for everyone.

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In an era of extreme weather, concerns grow over dam safety

elwha-dam
Dam, Erosion, Inform
Jul
10

Many of the United States’ 91,000 dams are aging and sorely in need of repairs that could collectively cost tens of billions of dollars. Experts are increasingly worried that as extreme precipitation events increase, dams are at greater risk of failure, threatening lives and posing environmental risks.

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The California coast is disappearing under the rising sea. Our choices are grim

While other regions grappled with destructive waves and rising seas, the West Coast for decades was spared by a rare confluence of favorable winds and cooler water. But lines in the sand are meant to shift. In the last 100 years, the sea rose less than 9 inches in California. By the end of this century, the surge could be greater than 9 feet.

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A massive seaweed bloom is smothering life from the Caribbean to West Africa

For eight years, thick mats of seaweed have smothered coral reefs, trapped sea turtles and brought economic instability to coastal communities as reddish-brown gobs of foul-smelling sargassum wash onto beaches along the Caribbean Sea, Gulf of Mexico and tropical Atlantic. These phenomena are symptoms of a massive seaweed bloom scientists are calling the Great Atlantic Sargassum Belt.

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Beachgoers beware: Drivers pose potentially deadly danger on the sand

Beachgoers are being urged to stay vigilant this summer amid an alarming number of injuries — and even deaths — caused by drivers on the beach. At least 12 states allow you to drive on at least some beaches.

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What happens when a country drowns? These 5 island nations will disappear first

Global climate change is endangering small island countries, many of them developing nations, potentially harming their ability to function as independent states.

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Coastal Hazards & Targeted Acquisitions: A Reasonable Shoreline Management Alternative: North Topsail Beach, North Carolina Case Study

This study is the first of several case studies to be released by the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines examining the feasibility and economics of targeted acquisition strategies in oceanfront, resort communities. Buyouts of vulnerable properties have become an increasingly popular tool for reducing future exposure in flood-prone communities across the U.S.

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Inside the deadly world of India’s sand mining mafia

India ranks second after China in its use of construction sand, a dwindling and increasingly valuable resource.

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Recent / Inform

Coastal Hazards & Targeted Acquisitions: A Reasonable Shoreline Management Alternative: North Topsail Beach, North Carolina Case Study

July 3rd, 2019

This study is the first of several case studies to be released by the Program for the Study of Developed Shorelines examining the feasibility and economics of targeted acquisition strategies in oceanfront, resort communities. Buyouts of vulnerable properties have become an increasingly popular tool for reducing future exposure in flood-prone communities across the U.S.

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Inside the deadly world of India’s sand mining mafia

July 2nd, 2019

India ranks second after China in its use of construction sand, a dwindling and increasingly valuable resource.

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Plastic bans proliferate in 2019 as planet drowns in trash

June 29th, 2019

As the world slowly wakes up to the scale of the plastic pollution problem, an increasing number of countries and cities are introducing bans on certain products. Not only can they help to prevent plastics from entering marine ecosystems, but they’re also addressing the myth that we can recycle our way out of the problem.

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The crumbling coast: Mineral beach sand mining is eating away Kerala’s coast;Video

June 26th, 2019

Residents of Alappad, a seaside village in Kollam, Kerala, have begun the #savealappad campaign to stop sand mining in their village which is resulting in large chunks of land getting wiped out.

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Great Pacific garbage patch: giant plastic trap put to sea again

June 23rd, 2019

Floating boom is designed to trap 1.8tn items of plastic without harming marine life – but broke apart last time

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After 14 months without tourists, Kauai’s North Shore tests the waters again

June 22nd, 2019

Despite the economic value tourists bring to Hawaii, state officials also face growing pressure to balance tourism with preservation of the islands’ natural resources and culture. As part of that effort, Kauai is rolling out new regulations to limit tourist traffic on the reopened highway.

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Sand mafias silence journalists in India

June 22nd, 2019

Up to 50 billion metric tons of sand and gravel are extracted every year worldwide. The inexhaustible need for sand from this rapidly-developing country is the breeding ground for illegal activities by what has come to be known as the “sand mafias”.

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Asian countries take a stand against the rich world’s plastic waste

June 18th, 2019

Amid a growing global movement against non-recyclable plastic, Vietnam and Thailand have said they will block all imported plastic waste in the next few years. Taiwan announced it would only accept plastic scrap if sorted into a single type, making it easier to recycle.

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Japan wraps everything in plastic. Now it wants to fight against plastic pollution.

June 18th, 2019

Japan’s obsession with hygiene combined with its pride in “omotenashi,” or customer service, dictates that everything is meticulously wrapped, rewrapped and bagged in multiple layers of plastic.

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Where does your plastic go? Global investigation reveals America’s dirty secret

June 17th, 2019

A Guardian report from 11 countries tracks how US waste makes its way across the world – and overwhelms the poorest nations.

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