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

‘Nuisance Flooding’ An Increasing Problem As Coastal Sea Levels Rise


A NOAA study looks at more than 60 years of coastal water level and local elevation data changes. Eight of the top 10 U.S. cities that have seen an increase in so-called “nuisance flooding”.

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Venice Is At The Heart Of Climate Change Debate


Venice – which is already fighting sea level rise – is a city which is extremely threatened by climate change. For the people who live there and the millions who visit every year, we have this message: Save the Climate, There is no Planet B.

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Cameroon’s Rising Sea Drowns Tourism


Located in the gulf of Guinea, Kribi has an estimated population of about 50,000 whose livelihoods depend on farming, fishing and tourism. However, rising sea levels and increased tides have eroded most of the once-sandy beach along Kribi. Now beaches are reduced to narrow muddy paths, the coastline has eroded from 50 to 100 metres since 1990.

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The Great Barrier Reef’s Days May Be Numbered


Researchers appeared before an Australian Senate committee to review how federal and local governments have managed the reef, and found that the Reef is in the worse state it’s ever been in since records began. Researchers attributed the significant decline to coastal development as well as dredging and dumping sediment along the Queensland coast.

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Science Brings Clarity To Shifting Shores

Erosion, Inform

Each and every day, waves move sand back and forth, onto and away from beaches. The thin ribbon of sandy barrier islands and beaches along America’s coastline shifts constantly, especially during hurricanes, nor’easters, and other extreme storms.

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U.S Gulf and Atlantic Coasts Not Prepared for Sea-Level Rise


The Atlantic and Gulf Coasts are not ready for the increased flooding and stronger storms that are expected from climate change, scientists say in The National Research Council report, released today.

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Endless Erosion Battle a Matter of Money


Since the first federal beach renourishment project in 1969, 3 million cubic yards of sand have been pumped back onto the beach, and about $25 million in today’s dollars have been spent on Treasure Island, Florida, alone to fight a natural process that’s been happening for ages on barrier islands, researchers say.

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The Great American Oyster Collapse


Scientists have linked climate change and pollution of the world’s oceans to problems with oysters and corals, and there are still questions about how other species of ocean life will be affected.

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Plastic ‘Trash Islands’ Forming In Ocean Garbage Patch; Moore Live Webcast July 20th

News, Pollution

15 years after discovering what became known as ” the great Pacific garbage patch”, Capt. Charles Moore has returned to the garbage patch, and will report the staggering findings via a live satellite webcast on July 20th. He discovered a “trash island” more than 50 feet (15 meters) long, with “beaches,” a “rocky coastline,” and “underwater mountains” and reefs made up of ropes, buoys and other plastic debris…

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Recent / Inform

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


May 28th, 2014

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


May 27th, 2014

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


May 27th, 2014

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


May 25th, 2014

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

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Life-Giving Deltas Starved by Dams


May 24th, 2014

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


May 24th, 2014

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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Conservationists Call On House To Stop Looser Beach Erosion Rules, SC


May 23rd, 2014

Environmentalists denounced a bill to let a handful of property owners rebuild the aging Debordieu seawall, despite a state law that banned seawalls about a quarter century ago. The ban, adopted as part of the 1988 beach management act, was enacted because seawalls are known to make beach erosion worse when slammed by waves.

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Vanishing Clams on an Iberian Beach: Consequences and Implications of Loss of Shells to Tourism


May 23rd, 2014

A four-fold increase in global tourist arrivals over the last 30 years may have induced a comparable worldwide acceleration in shell removal from marine shorelines, resulting in multiple, currently unquantifiable, habitat changes such as increased beach erosion.

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A Tracking System To Check Illegal Mining, Maharashtra, India


May 22nd, 2014

Even though stringent laws are in place to curb illegal sand mining, they are frequently violated. Pune division will soon emulate the Solapur model of barcoding system that aims to check illegal sand mining. The authorities will issue a barcoded slip to the driver ferrying sand and track the vehicle from the loading spot to the delivery point.

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Trash-Scooping Wheel Cleans Up Garbage From Baltimore Harbor


May 21st, 2014

A new contraption is helping to clear trash and debris, up to 50,000 pounds of it each day, from the Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.

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