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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

Record concentration of microplastic in Arctic sea ice

News, Pollution
Apr
25

Experts have recently found higher amounts of microplastic in arctic sea ice than ever before. However, the majority of particles were microscopically small.

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Why Seas Are Rising Faster on the U.S. East Coast

Scientists are unraveling the reasons why some parts of the world are experiencing sea level increases far beyond the global average. A prime example is the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, which has been experiencing “sunny day flooding” that had not been expected for decades.

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Madeira, the island of eternal springtime, and Porto Moniz lava pools

Inform
Apr
21

The lava pools on the remote, northwestern tip of Madeira Island, are one of the most beautiful place to take a tip in the ocean, anywhere. Surging out of the Atlantic more than 500 Km west of Morocco, Madeira is the craggy tip of a giant volcano.

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Holden Beach Says ‘No’ to Terminal Groin, NC

Terminal groins are wall-like structures built perpendicular to the shore at inlets to contain sand in areas of high erosion, like that of beaches at inlets.

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Could a tiny enzyme eradicate plastic garbage plaguing the world’s oceans?

News, Pollution
Apr
19

A small enzyme could be the solution to plastic pollution, one of the planet’s biggest environmental problems. Millions of metric tons of plastics wind up in the ocean each year.

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Global warming is transforming the Great Barrier Reef

A new study published online today in Nature shows that corals on the northern Great Barrier Reef experienced a catastrophic die-off following the extended marine heatwave of 2016.

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Can Adding Sand to Beaches Save Them?

The question is, can beach nourishment keep up with the ever-increasing forces of climate change or, like Sisyphus forever pushing his boulder up the hill, is adding sand to beaches an expensive, temporary fix to a long-term problem?

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Mapping Beach Changes After Devastating Montecito Debris Flows

Inform
Apr
11

During the week of March 26, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey carried out four days of mapping selected beaches and the adjacent seafloor in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Results will be compared to surveys from last fall to highlight changes due to winter waves, and to sediment inputs from area streams.

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Though wealthy, Jupiter Island gets $8.6M for beach repair from FEMA

Jupiter Island, a well-heeled seaside enclave where home values average $4.97 million, was awarded $8.6 million in federal emergency money for beach re-nourishment following a beating by 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. FEMA has obligated more than $233 million for Florida beach projects under the program.

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Recent / Inform

Mapping Beach Changes After Devastating Montecito Debris Flows

April 11th, 2018

During the week of March 26, scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey carried out four days of mapping selected beaches and the adjacent seafloor in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties. Results will be compared to surveys from last fall to highlight changes due to winter waves, and to sediment inputs from area streams.

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Though wealthy, Jupiter Island gets $8.6M for beach repair from FEMA

April 11th, 2018

Jupiter Island, a well-heeled seaside enclave where home values average $4.97 million, was awarded $8.6 million in federal emergency money for beach re-nourishment following a beating by 2016’s Hurricane Matthew. FEMA has obligated more than $233 million for Florida beach projects under the program.

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To shore up beaches, just add sand?

April 11th, 2018

New research is shedding light on how mechanically placed sand on San Diego County beaches moves and its potential impacts.

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Bits of the Sahara on the Move

April 6th, 2018

Scientists estimate that winds and storms pick up roughly 180 million tons of dust from the Sahara Desert each year and deposit it in the Atlantic Ocean and on the Americas. In the past week, active weather systems made a big deposit toward the 2018 total, as relentless storms lofted vast plumes of dust for days.

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Philippines closes ‘cesspool’ tourist island of Boracay

April 5th, 2018

The Philippines has announced a six-month closure of the popular tourist destination of Boracay over concerns the island’s famous beaches and clear blue waters have been transformed into a “cesspool” due to sustained environmental damage.

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Connection of sea level and groundwater missing link in climate response

April 4th, 2018

About 250 million years ago, when the Earth had no ice caps and the water around the equator was too hot for reptiles, sea level still rose and fell over time. Now, an international team of researchers has developed a way to track sea-level rise and fall and to tease out what caused the changes in the absence of ice sheets.

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The Pearl, Qatar

April 2nd, 2018

The Pearl-Qatar, a man-made island spanning approximately 1.5 square kilometers (0.6 square miles), extends from the mainland, and once fully completed, The Pearl will create over 32 kilometers of new coastline.

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Estuaries may experience accelerated impacts of human-caused CO2

April 2nd, 2018

Rising anthropogenic, or human-caused, carbon dioxide in the atmosphere may have up to twice the impact on coastal estuaries as it does in the oceans because the human-caused CO2 lowers the ecosystem’s ability to absorb natural fluctuations of the greenhouse gas, a new study suggests.

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Dolphins tear up nets as fish numbers fall

March 29th, 2018

University of Exeter researchers studied the impact of bottlenose dolphins on fisheries off northern Cyprus and said Mediterranean overfishing had created a “vicious cycle” of dolphins and fishers competing for dwindling stocks.

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Students Dig Into Decades of Turtle Data

March 29th, 2018

More than three decades’ worth of information is, for the first time, being pieced together to tell a story of sea turtle nesting habits on Bald Head Island’s shores.

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