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

Soap, Sunscreen and Steroids Found in Antarctic Waters and Wildlife

News, Pollution

The last great wilderness on Earth now has traces of personal care products and steroid hormones.

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Gambia: Mangrove Regeneration and Coastal Erosion


The West African Birds Association has trained 120 young people from 24 schools and organizations within Banjul, and West Coast regions, building the capacity of young people on the importance of mangroves and the dangers of coastal erosion.

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First Phase of Global Fracking Expansion: Ensuring Friendly Legislation


Multinational oil and gas companies are engaged in a quiet but broad attempt to prepare the groundwork for a significant global expansion of shale gas development, according to a study released Monday.

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Erosion Worsens at Topsail North Beach, NC


Ongoing efforts to address erosion at the north end of Topsail Island took on more urgency this week after a weekend storm pounded the shoreline.

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Worldwide Ship Traffic Up 300 Percent Since 1992

News, Pollution

Maritime traffic on the world’s oceans has increased four-fold over the past 20 years, likely causing more water, air and noise pollution on the open seas, according to a new study quantifying global ship traffic.

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Progress Towards Ogoniland Clean-up following Geneva Talks

News, Pollution

Over 50 years of oil operations in Ogoniland – Niger Delta region, has left widespread and devastating oil pollution that may require the world’s biggest ever clean-up, that could take 20-30 years…

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Education is Key to Climate Adaptation


According to new research, education makes people less vulnerable to natural disasters such as floods, landslides, and storms that are expected to intensify with climate change.

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Mediterranean Meteorological Tide Has Increased by over a Millimeter a Year Since 1989


A new database developed provides information on sea level variation due to atmospheric changes in the south of Europe between 1948 and 2009. Over the last two decades sea levels have increased in the Mediterranean basin.

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The Living, Breathing Ocean


The ocean is a complex ecosystem. The ocean carbon cycle is governed by the relationship among carbon, nutrients and oxygen, and the ratio between certain elements is key to understanding ocean respiration.

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Recent / Inform

Global Economy To Lose Billions Without Action To Stop Ocean Acidification, UN Report Warns


October 9th, 2014

The global economy could be losing as much as $1 trillion annually by the end of the century if countries do not take urgent steps to stop ocean acidification, says a United Nations report launched Wednesday in Pyeongchang, Republic of Korea (ROK).

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Encroaching Tides, A Report By The Union of Concerned Scientists


October 8th, 2014

Tidal flooding, driven by sea level rise, will dramatically increase in U.S. East and Gulf Coast communities over the next 30 years. Daily flooding caused by high tides will occur in the District and Annapolis within three decades as sea levels continue to rise due to global warming, a new study says.

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Rapid Response for a New Wind Instrument


October 8th, 2014

The new instrument will contribute to global monitoring of ocean winds. The data can be used to improve weather and marine forecasting and climate modeling.

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21 Numbers That Explain Why The Time To Address Climate Change Is Right Now, Or Maybe Yesterday


October 7th, 2014

21 numbers to help explain one of the most pressing global issues of our time…

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Scientists See Severe Coral Bleaching Near Oahu


October 7th, 2014

While people in Hawaii have been sweating out a lack of trade winds, corals underwater are also suffering.

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Due To Landscape Fragmentation, Brazil’s Rainforests Are Releasing More Carbon Dioxide Than Previously Thought


October 7th, 2014

For the first time, this examination shows a methodical way in which ecological effects in small areas can be used for large-scale environmental assessments.

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Great Barrier Reef Dredge Approval Was ‘Suicide’ For Reef Authority


October 7th, 2014

One of the world’s leading coral reef scientists says Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority has lost its credibility and budget cuts left it unable to protect the world heritage site.

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Paradise Lost: Filmmakers Document the Maldives’ Trash Island


October 6th, 2014

It may be known as a tropical paradise, an archipelago of 1,200 coral islands in the Indian Ocean. But the traditional image of the Maldives hides a dirty secret: the world’s biggest rubbish island: Thilafushi.

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Major Conference On Biodiversity Warns Against ‘Business As Usual’ Behaviour, Consumption


October 6th, 2014

The report, Global Diversity Outlook 4 was released today at the start of the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, known as COP-12. Continuing with ‘business as usual’ in our present patterns of behaviour, consumption, production and economic incentives will not allow us to realize the vision of a world with ecosystems capable of meeting human needs into the future.

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NASA Study Finds Earth’s Ocean Abyss Has Not Warmed


October 6th, 2014

NASA scientists analyzed satellite and direct ocean temperature data from 2005 to 2013 and found the ocean abyss below 1.24 miles (1,995 meters) has not warmed measurably. The temperature of the top half of the world’s oceans — above the 1.24-mile mark — is still climbing, but not fast enough to account for the stalled air temperatures…

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