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 Sea Washed it Away”


… On the ground after typhoon Haiyan. A photo-reportage by Stephanie Valera and Eric Jankstrom.

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“We Were Once Three Miles From the Sea”


Grain by grain, West Africa’s coasts are eroding away, the dry land sucked under the water by a destructive mix of natural erosion and human meddling… Nyani Quarmyne has poignantly photographed the impacts of climate change on people living on the Ghana coast.

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Local Factors Cause Dramatic Spikes in Coastal Ocean Acidity


A new Duke University-led study has documented dramatic, natural short-term increases in the acidity of a North Carolina estuary.

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Florida’s Mangrove Forests Expand with Climate Change


Fewer deep freezes, attributable to Earth’s warming climate, have caused mangrove forests to expand northward in Florida over the past three decades, new research suggests.

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Floating Towns And Oyster Beds: How US cities Are Preparing For Rising Seas


Most of America’s urban infrastructure is coastal. Of the 25 most densely populated U.S. cities, 23 are along a coast. And two of the biggest threats from climate change are increasingly intense storms and rising sea levels.

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Excessive Erosion Sweeps Hawaii Homes Out To Sea


For most of Hawaii, the winter means big swells and excellent surfing. But for one neighborhood, the recent waves caught more than just surfers.

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Mount Everest, “Mother Of The Universe”


When climbers reach the top of Mount Everest, they are not standing on hard igneous rock produced by volcanoes. Rather, they are perched on softer sedimentary rock formed by the skeletons of creatures that lived in a warm ocean off the northern coast of India tens of millions of years ago…

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King Tides A Preview Of Coming Sea Rise


Sea levels off the California coast will rise up to 2 feet by 2050 and up to 5.5 feet by 2100, scientific research suggests. Already, sea levels have risen in San Francisco by 8 inches over the past century.

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When Two Become One


Volcanic activity along the western edge of the Pacific “Ring of Fire” gave rise to a small island adjacent to Nishino-shima, the summit of a massive submarine volcano that last erupted and expanded in 1973–74. Ongoing eruptions have caused the new island to grow, and the two islands may soon fuse into one.

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Recent / Inform

What is Cooking Underwater in the Bay of Bengal?


October 29th, 2013

The story of big trawlers destroying marine habitats by overfishing, and fishermen being pushed further out to sea, has become sadly universal. But this is the story of a group of people building an artificial reef to bring marine life back from the brink.

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5 Things Hurricane Sandy Changed for Good


October 29th, 2013

Some people and places may never be the same since Hurricane Sandy hit the northern Atlantic Coast on Oct. 29, 2012. The lingering effects include lives lost and irreplaceable mementos. Barrier islands were changed forever.

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Keeping The Coasts of Lofoten, Vesterålen And Senja Free From Oil And Gas Exploration


October 29th, 2013

Norway, one of the world’s largest oil and gas developers, has committed to protecting valuable areas of the ocean from being impacted by petroleum activities, putting the value of nature in front of the need for oil.

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The Ocean Is Broken


October 28th, 2013

Nothing could have prepared mariner Ivan Macfadyen for the devastation all around him as he sailed the Pacific.

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Scientist Finds ‘Hawaiian Beach’ Sand On Mars


October 28th, 2013

Earlier this month, Morrison, a geology student at University of Arizona, member of the science team on NASA’s Curiosity rover currently exploring Mars, co-authored two scientific publications in the journal Science, reporting the first scientific results and detailed analyses of individual mineral compositions in the Martian surface.

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Human Impacts On Top Ocean Predators Along US West Coast Mapped


October 28th, 2013

The California Current System along the U.S. west coast is among the richest ecosystems in the world, driven by nutrient input from coastal upwelling and supporting a great diversity of marine life. Like coastal regions in general, it is also heavily impacted by human activities.

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Sand Wars: Facing a World Without Sand


October 27th, 2013

An interview with Denis Delestrac, writer and award-winning director.

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Detox: How People Power is Cleaning Up Fashion


October 27th, 2013

Around the world a growing movement of people are using their creativity, design skills and purchasing power to demand fashion without pollution. A Greenpeace video.

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Mangroves Help Guyana Defend Against Changing Climate


October 26th, 2013

Approximately 90 percent of Guyana’s population lives on a narrow coastline strip a half to one metre below sea level…

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Scientists Develop New Method to Help Global Coasts Adapt to Sea-Level Rise


October 25th, 2013

A team of scientists, led by the University of Southampton, has developed a new method to help the world’s coasts adapt to global sea-level rises over the next 100 years.

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