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.
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
Satellite images from NASA show that over the last 14 years, one of the world’s largest inland bodies of water, the Aral Sea in Central Asia, has almost completely dried up and disappeared.
Sand mafia is now mixing up the beach sand with riverbed sand for construction activity in the city due to scarcity. Though the practice exists in the city for sometime on the outskirts, it has become rampant with shortage of sand.
Tens of thousands of ships ply the world’s oceans, bays, and rivers. But what happens when those ships have become too old or too expensive to operate? In most cases, they end up on the shores of Asia…literally.
Palmyra Atoll, a refuge for seabird breeding colonies and coral reef communities, is part of the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. The national monument received a big boost this week, when U.S. President Obama announced he was expanding its borders, turning the remote area into the world’s largest marine reserve.
A breach torn through New York’s Fire Island by Hurricane Sandy is bringing new life in to a long-polluted ecosystem. A National Geographic video.
From recreational boats and fishing vessels to commercial cruise ships and private marinas, a newly published study shows that oil discharges related to human maritime activity on the Canadian coast are posing a major threat to marine ecosystems in the Pacific Ocean.
Each year, Côte d’Ivoire produces 200,000 tonnes of plastic bags of which 40,000 go directly into the trash. Less than 20 percent of this plastic is recycled. In this West African nation, the pressure is growing to find alternatives to plastic shopping bags.
Plastic pollution is having a greater impact on seabirds than previously thought, scientists say.
Thousands of miles off America’s shores, an ocean preserve flush with rare seabirds, turtles and marine mammals will grow to roughly three times the size of California under a memorandum that President Barack Obama signed today.