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

The Waters are Rising on NASA’s Shores

Sea level also matters in a horizontal direction. A rule of thumb is that 1 inch of vertical change in sea level translates into 100 inches of horizontal loss on a flat beach or marsh. In this way, a little bit of sea level rise can translate into a lot of water moving inland when there are storms or abnormally high tides.

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New Zealand Creates Vast Ocean Sanctuary

A vast stretch of New Zealand’s exclusive economic zone is being turned into an ocean sanctuary in a landmark deal to preserve one of the most pristine and unique environments on Earth.

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What it Means: Shell Abandons Arctic Oil Drilling

Shell is giving up on its expensive and controversial push to produce oil in Alaska’s Arctic waters, a decision that darkens the long-term oil prospects of the U.S. and brings relief to environmental groups that had tried desperately to block the project.

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Aquaculture in Northeast China

The aquaculture basins have been built out from the wooded coast to a distance of nearly 6 kilometers (4 miles). Fish farms have been constructed at many points along the provincial coastline, but this group of basins facing the Yellow Sea is the largest.

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The Micronesia Challenge: Sustainable Coral Reefs and Fisheries

While island societies can do little to control carbon emissions from developed nations, they can manage their local resources to enhance the ecosystem services that coastal habitats, including reefs, provide for people.

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Extreme Pacific Sea Level Events to Double in Future

Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps. Now they may also see much more frequent extreme sea level swings.The culprit is a projected behavioral change of the El Niño phenomenon and its characteristic Pacific wind response.

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What Chile Did Right


Recently, Chile survived a powerful quake with relatively few casualties. More than one million people were evacuated from coastal areas in a matter of hours, escaping the tsunami waves, some of which were 15 feet high in the region of Coquimbo.

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Nearly Half of U.S. Seafood Supply is Wasted, Study Shows

As much as 47 percent of the edible US seafood supply is lost each year, mainly from consumer waste, new research suggests.

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Does Beach Erosion Affect Oceanfront Property Prices?

Do people tend to ignore looming problems until the wolf – or in this case, the ocean – is just outside the door? That may be the case, at least when it comes to certain pricey beach-front property.

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Recent / Inform

Seagrass Thrives Surprisingly Well in Toxic Sediments, But Still Dies All Over The World

August 6th, 2015

New studies of seagrasses reveal that they are surprisingly good at detoxifying themselves when growing in toxic seabed. But if seagrasses are stressed by their environment, they lose the ability and die. All over the world seagrasses are increasingly stressed.

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Adele Island

August 5th, 2015

An astronaut aboard the International Space Station took this photograph of Adele Island, off of Australia’s north coast. Adele Island has been classified as an important bird area because it is a breeding site of world importance for lesser frigatebirds and three other species.

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Toxic Algae Blooming in Warm Water from California to Alaska

August 5th, 2015

A vast bloom of toxic algae off the West Coast is denser, more widespread and deeper than scientists feared even weeks ago.

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August 4th, 2015

Shell Oil is racing to sink its drills into the Arctic’s Chukchi Sea — and the Obama Administration has given them the green light. This comes despite the government’s own estimates that there’s a 75% chance of a major oil spill in the Arctic Ocean…

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The Barrier Islands: Islands in Motion

August 3rd, 2015

North Carolina is famous for its beautiful set of coastal barrier islands. But did you know that those islands are mobile? Around 14 thousand years ago, as the last ice age was coming to a close, sea level began to rise as water was released from the glaciers.

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New Insights on Hurricane Intensity, Pollution Transport

August 1st, 2015

Researchers study currents that fuel hurricanes and transport pollutants to coastal beaches.

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Bering Sea Hotspot for Corals and Sponges

August 1st, 2015

North of the Aleutian Islands, submarine canyons in the cold waters of the eastern Bering Sea contain a highly productive “green belt” that is home to deep-water corals as well as a plethora of fish and marine mammals.

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Hawaii’s Na Pali Coast Is The Beautiful Place You’ve Never Been

August 1st, 2015

While travelers can hike the Na Pali coast or adore it from afar during a helicopter or boat tour, the kayak seems to outshine all other modes of transportation for exploring this remote Kauai paradise.

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The Wild Alaskan Lands at Stake If the Pebble Mine Moves Ahead

July 31st, 2015

The proposed Pebble Mine in southwestern Alaska is a project of almost unfathomable scale. The mine would cover 28 square miles and require the construction of the world’s largest earthen dam — 700 feet high and several miles long — to hold back a 10-square-mile containment pond filled with up to 2.5 billion tons of sulfide-laden mine waste.

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Photos: Spectacular Saltwater Marshes of the Eastern US

July 31st, 2015

The extensive estuarine saltwater marshes of eastern North America are large, flat, grassy areas that are flooded daily by the semidiurnal tides of the Atlantic Ocean.

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