Vanishing Beaches

Disappearing beaches are an environmental issue with viable solutions

Being aware of environmental shifts that create negative impact is half the battle; few people seem to be conscious of the fact that beaches around the world are getting smaller and becoming endangered. The upside to this, and why weíre writing about it on BeachReviews.org, is that once awareness is created, then people have the means to act, to improve and even reverse these conditions. Beaches are the entire subject matter of BeachReviews.org. We care about the worldís beaches.

Beaches, like people, plants and animals, are living organisms. Unlike us, they are seldom if ever born after a set gestation period; they evolve into being thanks to a combination of elements in violent upheaval or prolonged interaction over thousands of years. But exactly like us, they can become sick and they can even die.

What is the symptom of a sick, or dying, beach? Next time you visit a beach, you can pretty easily tell if it is healthy or not. Signs of an ill beach include:

Some of the biggest, most popular beaches on the United States eastern seaboard have actually been widened in order to accommodate more beach-goers; this manufactured widening does not count as a ďflat, wideĒ beach, but there are dangers in manipulating the natural state of any beach.

What causes these symptoms to be present and a beach to be sick? A lot of it has to do with aligned environmental issues, such as the acid rain caused by the burning of fossil fuels. There is not a lot that an individual can do to stop acid rain, except for perhaps riding your bike instead of driving your car, but you can join with large groups working for solutions to such widespread environmental issues and help your favorite beach, too.

The best way that you can ensure beaches donít get sick are to respect them when you are using them. Never leave garbage behind on a beach when you leave; use the trash cans provided to dispose of your waste. Donít bury dog feces in the sand (we have even seen people bury disposable baby diapers on a beach!), and ensure you put compostable waste in a proper compost bin; the beach is not where you should leave your leftover ham sandwich to rot. Donít butt out cigarettes on a beach; itís not a giant ashtray! There are things you can do as an individual that will help beaches stay healthy. Act in respect and ask others to do the same.

Rising sea levels are believed to be a cause of reducing beaches; when global icecaps melt and sea levels rise, that in turn engulfs beaches and sand. The portions of a beach that remain wet and never get the chance to dry out become sick and/or become part of the seabed.

Other factors, too, contribute to disappearing beaches. Run-off from farms (read: animal waste), and the byproducts of road maintenance, such as salt, affect beaches and the waters they border. When toxic run-off lands in the sea and then the sea laps at the beachÖ You get the picture. River dams, like hydro-electric operations, prevent sands and soils from getting to the beach, meaning the supply of materials that form and maintain a beach are reduced, in turn reducing the beach.

Winds are a powerful force when it comes to beaches. Strong winds restructure beaches, sculpt them and rid them of sand that has become such small particulate it is dust. High-rise buildings clustered at the edge of a beach prevent normal wind movement and they buffet winds back across the beach, driving sand into the sea or lake.

There is a global demand for sand, and that means sand gets mined. Yes, sand is removed from beaches and used in all manner of construction (itís an essential ingredient in cement and concrete, as well as glass) applications from houses to roads and even gardens. When the sand, which has taken millennia to produce by nature, is removed, it takes an equal number of years to replace.

Evolution is a natural process and some would correctly argue that certain dying beaches should be left to their ends, not saved. Only an expert can effectively determine which beaches are worthy of saving, and you can always find current information if you search the internet. Rely upon university websites for such correct news.

Because this disappearing beach process is very slow (except in the case of mining), we likely wonít notice that a beach is vanishing unless we study it and look for the signs. If we understand and enlighten others, and ourselves, we become part of the solution. What can we do besides educate and spread the word?

If a beach is within your control, or perhaps part of a public area where you are a taxpayer, look into the removal of trees that are planted too close together, too densely, at the non-water edge of the beach. Thinning out trees and thick vegetation can help the winds in doing their natural blustering more effectively, and dry out wet sand.

Small changes can make a big difference. Leave driftwood where you find it. It might look great as a paperweight on your desk or a coffee-table ornament, but the beach needs it more than you do. And keep cars, dune buggies and other motorized vehicles off beaches; they pollute and damage the sand.

On a grander scale, if you are contemplating erecting a beach dwelling, keep the narrow profile of your building facing the beach; build narrow and long, not shallow and wide. If you know of a sand-mining operation in your community, start or join a committee to either stop the mining or reduce its output.

Beaches are one of the planetís most enjoyed treasures. There are dozens of things you can do to ensure the beaches where you live or vacation are as healthy as possible. It took hundreds of generations for your favorite beach to form to the degree that you can take pleasure in using it. Efforts made now will ensure healthy beaches for hundreds of generations to come.

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