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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

Piling sand to stop erosion ultimately made the land sink, study says

A new study underscores the unique difficulties Louisiana faces in maintaining its fragile delta and keeping the sea at bay: Researchers found work to replenish an eroding shoreline by pumping onto it massive amounts of sand itself caused the land to sink.

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Beijing highway: $600m road just the start of China’s investments in Caribbean

Stretching some 67 km north to south across Jamaica, the $600m four-lane nicknamed the “Beijing highway, is the single biggest investment by the Chinese in the Caribbean. This project is also prelude of the building of a $1.5bn deep water container port on islands off the south coast ,using dredging and land reclamation to accommodate mega ships coming through the expanded Panama Canal.

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Walking in Rachel Carson’s Footsteps

Celebrate, Inform
Dec
24

Rachel Carson is best known by most people for her fourth and most-famous book Silent Spring, which many credit as the spark that ignited the modern-day environmental movement. But long before, Carson had published a series of books about the sea, and the genius of her writing was the ability to weave together enchanting literary prose with cutting edge marine biology of the day. This was new.

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Scientists Debate Evidence of Ancient Megatsunami

Inform
Dec
23

Giant tsunamis may have helped to shape the world around us today.

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Recovering Fur Seal Population Threatened by El Nino

After all but vanishing from the granite shores of the Farallon Islands, by the mid-1800s, the seals have been returning in ever-increasing numbers—just in time to take a hit from a strong, brewing El Niño.

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Coastal Louisiana added to NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer

Scientists, regional managers, coastal planners, businesses and residents of Louisiana can now use NOAA’s popular Sea Level Rise and Coastal Flooding Impacts Viewer to assess their risks for coastal flooding under a variety of different scenarios.

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Coastal erosion washes away beaches, threatens tourism in Senegal

Erosion, Inform
Dec
20

The problem for tourism in Senegal, is not high prices or mismanagement, but coastal erosion that is blighting the West African country’s coast. The Atlantic has washed away beaches, forcing hotels to make drastic choices.

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Amsterdam Island, Indian Ocean

Inform
Dec
19

This distant, lonely volcanic rock brings new meaning to the phrase “the middle of nowhere.”

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Coastal marshes more resilient to sea-level rise than previously believed

Rising seas threaten coastal marshes worldwide. But a new Duke University study finds marshes are more resilient than previously believed.

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Recent / Inform

Perth’s Double Whammy: as Sea Levels Rise the City Itself is Sinking

October 27th, 2015

Growing demand for water in Perth has caused the city to sink at up to 6mm a year and could be responsible for an apparent acceleration in the rate of sea level rise, according to new research.

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Why This Treacherous Hawaiian Beach, Keeps Breaking People’s Necks

October 27th, 2015

Even for an experienced surfer, it’s easy to make mistakes at Sandy Beach, notorious for its shallow shore break. These beaches are deceptive, sometimes lethally.

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Residents to Pay for Sand Replenishment at Malibu Beach, CA

October 26th, 2015

Residents of Malibu’s Broad Beach have agreed to pay $31 million over the next decade to truck in tons of sand to build up the diminished shoreline filled with homes of the rich and famous.

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Asia’s Coasts to Experience Most Extreme Weather

October 26th, 2015

Over the next 50 years, people living at low altitudes in developing countries, particularly those in coastal Asia, will suffer the most from extreme weather patterns, according to researchers.

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A Delicate Balance: Protecting Northwest’s Glass Sponge Reefs

October 26th, 2015

Rare and extensive reefs of glass sponges are found only one place on earth – a stretch of the Pacific Northwest coast. Now, efforts are underway to identify and protect these fragile formations before they are obliterated by fishing vessels that trawl the bottom.

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The Next Food Revolution: Fish Farming?

October 25th, 2015

Farmed seafood exceeded global beef production for the first time in 2011 and now provides about half of all fish consumed by humans. Yet aquaculture comes with a host of problems, from pollution of coastal areas and ecosystems, to sanitary issues and diseases, to the major challenge facing aquaculture: the issue of fish feed.

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New Study Provides First Field Observations of Rare Omura’s Whales

October 25th, 2015

An international team of biologists has made the first-ever field observations of one of the least known species of whales in the world—Omura’s whales—in the shallow waters of coastal Madagascar.

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France’s Vanishing Beaches, In Pictures

October 23rd, 2015

18 images and aerial views show beaches and sand dunes erosion along the Atlantic Ocean coast in southwestern France.

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The Pacific Is About to Get a Massive New Ocean Reserve

October 23rd, 2015

The nation of Palau in the western Pacific just protected 80 percent of their ocean.

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Plastic Litter Taints the Sea Surface, Even in the Arctic

October 22nd, 2015

For the first time, researchers show that marine litter can even be found at the sea surface of Arctic waters. Though it remains unclear how the litter made it so far north, it is likely to pose new problems for local marine life, the authors report.

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