Inform

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

A Little Fish with Big Impact In Trouble on U.S. West Coast

Scientists are concerned that officials waited too long to order a ban on U.S. Pacific sardine fishing that goes into effect July 1. The dire state of the sardine population is a cautionary tale about overharvesting these and other forage fish that are a critical part of the marine food web.

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The Race For Water Odyssey Arrives In Hawaii To Continue Its Fight Against Plastic Pollution In The Oceans

News, Pollution
Jun
19

Having left Easter Island, the R4WO scientific team will continue the collection of data that started three months ago, in the Azores, to create a corpus that would allow a better understanding of marine pollution.

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Documentary ‘Sand Wars’ Highlights Local, Global Sand Crises

News, Sand Mining
Jun
19

The environmental documentary ‘Sand Wars’ was shown at The Center for Ocean Health in Santa Cruz on Thursday, preceded by a presentation by UCSC professor Gary Griggs. As Gary Griggs and “Sand Wars” demonstrate, sand has become a valuable resource worldwide due in large part to continuous construction.

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Tracing The Coastline

Erosion, Inform
Jun
18

With each wave that breaks and washes ashore as well as with every gust of wind, the coast is altered. Sometimes the change is dramatic, but more often, the change is too small to be seen right away and it only becomes clear over time.

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There’s No Such Thing As a Spill-Proof Way to Transport Oil

News, Pollution
Jun
17

To a historian of pipelines, last month’s Santa Barbara oil spill is a reminder that the more things change, the more they remain the same. Since their first introduction in the late 19th century, pipelines have leaked regularly and ruptured occasionally.

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Suspended Sediment Makes it Harder for Fish to Breathe

Researchers have discovered that suspended sediment damages fish gills and can increase the rate of disease in fish. Suspended sediments result from flood plumes, coastal agricultural and industrial development and from dredging operations and are increasing in coastal waters worldwide.

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At the Intersection of Coastal Peru and a Cloud Bank

Inform
Jun
16

In the winter, the coast of Peru is a very cloudy place. In this part of the Pacific Ocean, the Humboldt Current provokes coastal upwelling; that is, cooler water from the ocean depths are pulled up to the surface.

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Erosion and the Disappearance of Senegal’s coast

At their recent summit in Germany, G7 leaders agreed to limit global warming to 2°C, but along Senegal’s coast, the consequences of climate change are already tangible. The coastline is suffering severe land loss due to erosion.

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Accelerated Warming of the Continental Shelf Off Northeast Coast

A couple of unexplained large scale changes in the waters off the northeast coast of the U.S. have oceanographers perplexed: an accelerated rate of sea level rise compared to most other parts of the world; and the disturbing signs of collapsing fisheries in the region.

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Recent / Inform

Two Dead in new Mexico Oil Rig Accident

May 5th, 2015

At least two workers died Tuesday as an oil maintenance platform tilted over the sea off Mexico’s east coast, forcing the evacuation of 101 employees, the Pemex energy firm said.

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Melting Antarctic: Failure to Act Now on Emissions Could Raise Oceans by Metres

May 5th, 2015

In recent decades, Antarctica and Greenland have played minor roles in the world’s rising oceans. But this is changing. Rising sea levels don’t just put places underwater, but every centimetre increases the impacts that storm surges have on people, homes and coastal infrastructure.

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Giant Waves Quickly Destroy Arctic Ocean Ice and Ecosystems

May 5th, 2015

Scientists had never imagined that Arctic waves could break up pack ice so quickly. The chance encounter of a research vessel with the largest waves ever recorded amid floating packs of Arctic ice shows how such rollers could reroute shipping, damage oil platforms and threaten coastal communities with erosion.

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The State That ‘Outlawed Climate Change’ Accepts Latest Sea-Level Rise Report

May 5th, 2015

Five years ago, the Science Panel of the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commissioner presented a report outlining that sea levels along the coast could rise as much as 39 inches over the next 100 years. The General Assembly passed a law forbidding communities from using this report to pass new rules. Now, almost three years later, the scientists have come back with a new report, but it is hardly complete and universal.

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Nigeria: Drenched in Shell Oil

May 5th, 2015

The clean-up will not solve the underlying problems of Nigeria’s opaque oil industry.

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Engineers Warn East Coast Storms Point to Future Flooding, Erosion risks, Push for Town Planning Changes

May 4th, 2015

Recent catastrophic flood events in New South Wales should sound warnings for communities across the country, water engineers say.

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Duck Beach is Sinking Fast and Deep, NC

May 4th, 2015

The beach at Duck is sinking faster than the ocean is rising. The phenomenon, called vertical land movement, is a lesser-known part of the debate over sea-level rise…

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Fjords Soak Up a Surprising Amount of Carbon

May 4th, 2015

Fjords are known for their otherworldly beauty. But these high-latitude inlets also have an outsized role in the carbon cycle, a study finds.

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How Did Rocks End Up on the Beach? NC

May 2nd, 2015

State rules make it clear that sand from an ocean bottom riddled with rocks should not be pumped onto the state’s beaches during beach re-nourishment projects. Yet, a beach pumping project on the south end of this Onslow County town littered the beach with tons of rocks, some the size of basketballs. And no one stopped it.

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1000 Dams Down and Counting: Dam Removal Study Reveals River Resiliency

elwha-dam

May 2nd, 2015

More than 1,000 dams have been removed across the United States because of safety concerns, sediment buildup, inefficiency or having otherwise outlived usefulness. A paper published in Science Magazine finds that rivers are resilient and respond relatively quickly after a dam is removed.

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