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

This Sinking Isle: The Homeowners Battling Coastal Erosion

Erosion, Inform

As sea levels rise, thousands of people on the coast of Britain have been forced to move inland.

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Secrecy Shrouds Decade-Old Oil Spill in Gulf of Mexico

News, Pollution

An Associated Press investigation has revealed evidence that an oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico — that has gone largely unnoticed, despite creating miles-long slicks for more than a decade — is far worse than what has been publicly reported…

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50 Best Beaches in the World (PHOTOS)

Celebrate, Inform

Here, in no particular order, 50 sources of beach inspiration—from secluded coves in Southeast Asia to romantic getaways in the Mediterranean—that will make you want to book a ticket immediately.

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Antigua Draws a Line in the Vanishing Sand


Jabberwock beach, located on the northeastern coast of Antigua, features a mile-long white sand beach and is a favourite with locals and visitors alike. But residents who frequent the area for exercise and other recreational activities, are worried that the beach is quickly disappearing.

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Is Gulf Oil Spill’s Damage Over or Still Unfolding?


Published research suggests the BP spill hurt wildlife, wetlands and Gulf marshes in countless ways, but as with virtually everything connected to the 2010 accident, scientists say it’s simply too early to tell about the long-term damage. And because the spill hit marine and estuarine systems already facing pollution and erosion, it can be difficult to document changes and isolate causes.

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Letter: Beach Erosion Lesson


The Kiawah Island developers who want legislators to change a proposed state law so that they can build on accreted beach should look at the east end of Folly Island to see the absurdity of their desire.

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Coal-Tar-Sealant Runoff Causes Toxicity and DNA Damage


Runoff from pavement with coal-tar-based sealant is toxic to aquatic life, damages DNA, and impairs DNA repair, according to two studies by the U.S. G.S published in the journals Environmental Science and Technology and Science of the Total Environment.

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Dispersant Used to Clean Deepwater Horizon Spill More Toxic to Corals than the Oil


The dispersant used to remediate the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico is more toxic to cold-water corals at lower concentrations than the spilled oil, according to a new study.

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Central Govt Halts Jakarta’s $40 Billion Reclamation Project


Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta– home to 10 million people – is sinking into the sea at between 2.9 and 6.7 inches per year. To save the megacity from drowning: a $40 billion land reclamation and sea wall project estimated to take 30 years to complete. However, today, the central government has decided to suspend its implementation as the viability of the project is now questioned.

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Recent / Inform

Why U.S. East Coast Should Stay Off-Limits to Oil Drilling


February 28th, 2015

It’s not just the potential for a catastrophic spill that makes the new proposal to open Atlantic Ocean waters to oil exploration such a bad idea. What’s worse is the cumulative impact on coastal ecosystems that an active oil industry would bring.

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Great Barrier Reef Corals Eat Plastic


February 27th, 2015

Researchers in Australia have found that corals commonly found on the Great Barrier Reef will eat micro-plastic pollution. Microplastics are tiny fragments of plastic in the environment and are a widespread contaminant in marine ecosystems, particularly in inshore coral reefs.

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Natural Disasters in Asia and Pacific Impact 80 Million People, Cost 60 Billion Dollars, in 2014


February 27th, 2015

More than half of the world’s 226 natural disasters occurred in the Asia and Pacific region last year.

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Freakish Weather on Both US Coasts is Related


February 27th, 2015

The plight of East Coasters may seem distant to Californians fretting over the latest predictions for a toasty, dry March that would almost certainly extend the devastating drought from three years to four. But, climate scientists say, the sometimes freakish weather abnormalities are two parts of a whole.

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Xboundary: a Film about Extreme Pollution Risks by Open-Pit Mining in British Columbia and Threats to Wildlife and Economy


February 26th, 2015

An open-pit mining boom is underway in northern British Columbia, Canada. The massive size and location of the mines — at the headwaters of major salmon rivers that flow across the border into Alaska — has Alaskans concerned over pollution risks… These concerns were heightened with the August 4, 2014 catastrophic tailings dam failure at nearby Mount Polley Mine in B.C.’s Fraser River watershed.

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Giant Waves Around the World


February 26th, 2015

A CBS slideshow.

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Artificial Reef Enhancement Underway, North Carolina


February 26th, 2015

Over the next couple months, more than 2 million tons of concrete material will be dropped over local artificial reefs, providing habitat for ocean life on barren stretches of the sea floor.

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Tasmania Bans Fracking for Another Five Years


February 26th, 2015

The Tasmanian government will extend its ban on fracking for five years to protect the state’s agricultural industry.

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Shellfish Face High Risk From Ocean Acidification, New Study Finds


February 26th, 2015

As oceans become more acidic, the US shellfish business is facing high economic risk in 15 out of 23 coastal states; Massachusetts tops the list of states facing the highest risk, the study concluded.

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Mysterious East Coast Flooding Caused by Weird Wind Patterns


February 25th, 2015

Mysterious flooding and high tides along the East Coast in 2009 and 2010 now have an explanation: a major change in the Atlantic Ocean’s wind patterns and warm-water currents.

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Coastal Care junior
The World's Beaches
Sand Mining
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