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

Despite Risks, Cuban Fisher Families Don’t Want to Leave the Sea


The old dilemma of leaving everything behind for safety reasons has reemerged with the new zoning regulations being implemented on Cuba’s 5,746 km of shoreline…

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FEMA Paying To Raise Houses On Stilts In Carolina Beach, NC


Seven flood-prone houses in Carolina Beach will be raised on stilts, a hazard mitigation project funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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Biologists Use Sound To Identify Breeding Grounds Of Endangered Whales


Biologists have confirmed what many conservationists fear, that Roseway Basin, a heavily traveled shipping lane, off the coast of Nova Scotia, is a vital habitat area for the endangered North Atlantic right whale.

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25 Years After Exxon Valdez Spill, Environmental Advocates Say Oil Laws Outdated

Inform, Pollution

Environmental advocates say the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez disaster is a reminder of the need to update regulations on the oil industry, as well as the risks that linger.

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Oil Spill In Galveston Bay, Texas

News, Pollution

A barge carrying nearly a million gallons of especially thick, sticky oil collided with a ship in Galveston Bay on Saturday, leaking an unknown amount of the fuel into the popular bird habitat as the peak of the migratory shorebird season was approaching.

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Deep Ocean Current May Slow Due To Climate Change


Far beneath the surface of the ocean, deep currents act as conveyer belts, channeling heat, carbon, oxygen and nutrients around the globe. A new study has found that recent climate change may be acting to slow down one of these conveyer belts, with potentially serious consequences for the future of the planet’s climate.

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Iron Increase In Oceans And Correlated Decrease Of CO2 Levels? A Study


Researchers from Princeton University and the Swiss Federal Institute of Techonology in Zurich have confirmed that during the last ice age iron fertilization caused plankton to thrive in a region of the Southern Ocean. Iron fertilization has also been suggested as one way to draw down the rising levels of CO2 associated with the burning of fossil fuels.

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World Bank Clears Congo’s Controversial Dam Project


The World Bank Thursday approved a 73.1-million-dollar grant in support of a controversial giant dam project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

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The Science Behind the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami


A press conference on the 50th anniversary of the 1964 Great Alaska Earthquake and Tsunami will be held on Tuesday, March 25. Scientific experts will talk about a half-century of scientific and monitoring advances triggered by the 1964 events.

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Recent / Inform

Building a Home Using Straw Bale Construction


January 12th, 2014

Solid, rugged, inexpensive, and twice as fire-proof as conventional lumber, straw bale construction is an idea who’s time has come.

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Singapore Takes the Lead In Green Building in Asia


January 12th, 2014

The phrase “green building” suggests basic universal characteristics, such as an attention to energy use and attempts to bring a building in tune with its environment. However, it is also a somewhat fluid concept…

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Origins of Giant Underwater Waves Explained


January 9th, 2014

Large-scale tests in the lab and the South China Sea reveal the origins of underwater waves that can tower hundreds of feet.

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Oceanographer Examines Pollutants in Antarctic Seal Milk


January 9th, 2014

An oceanographer from the University of Rhode Island is analyzing the milk from Antarctic fur seals to determine the type and quantity of pollutants the seals are accumulating and passing on to their pups.

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Global Lessons for Adapting Coastal Communities to Protect against Storm Surge Inundation


January 7th, 2014

Coastal inundation as a result of global sea-level rise and storm surge events is expected to affect many coastal regions and settlements. Adaptation is widely accepted as necessary for managing inundation risk. However, managing this risk is inherently contentious because of many uncertainties and because a large number of stakeholder interests and values are mobilized…

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“The Sea Washed it Away”


January 6th, 2014

… 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”


January 3rd, 2014

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


January 3rd, 2014

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


January 2nd, 2014

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


January 2nd, 2014

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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