beach super

World’s beaches being washed away due to coastal development

The world’s beaches are being washed away as coastal developments increase in size and engineers build ever higher sea walls to defend against fierce winter storms and rising sea levels, consistent with two of the worlds’ leading marine geologists.

The warning comes as violent Atlantic and Pacific storms in the week sent massive 50ft waves crashing over sea defences, washed away beaches and destroyed concrete walls in Europe, north America and therefore the Philippines.

“Most natural sand beaches are disappearing, due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of the shore,” said Andrew Cooper, professor of coastal studies at the University of Ulster.

“The widespread damage on western Europe’s storm-battered shores, the devastation caused by hurricane Sandy along the northeastern US seaboard, the deaths brought on by typhoon Haiyan within the Philippines all exemplify the entire inadequacy of [coastal] infrastructure and therefore the vulnerability of cities built on the sting of coastlines”, said Orrin Pilkey, professor of earth and ocean sciences at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina.

Pilkey and Cooper say during a new book, The Last Beach, that sea walls, which are widely believed by many local authorities to guard developments from erosion and water level rise, actually cause the destruction of beaches and sea defences and need constant rebuilding at increasing cost.

Dunes and wide beaches protect buildings from storms much better than sea walls, say the authors. “The beach may be a wonderful, free natural defence against the forces of the ocean. Beaches absorb the facility of the ocean waves reducing them to a mild swash that laps on the shoreline. Storms don’t destroy beaches. they modify their shape and site , moving sand around to maximise the absorption of wave energy then recover within the days, months and years to follow,” said Pilkey .

Beaches in nature are almost indestructible, but seawall construction disrupts the natural movement of sand and waves, hindering the method of sand deposition along the shorelines, said Cooper.

“The wall itself is that the problem. If you build a sea wall to guard the shore, the inevitable consequence is that the beach will disappear. The wall cannot absorb the energy of the ocean . All beaches with defences … are in peril . once you build the ocean wall, that’s the top of the beach,” he said.

“Beaches became long, narrow engineering projects sustained only by constant maintenance and ongoing expenditures. Ugly seawalls have removed beaches altogether. Trying to carry the shoreline in position makes a versatile response to water level rise harder ,” said Pilkey.

Many of the world’s most famous beaches are now ecologically dead and dependent for his or her survival on being replenished with sand or gravel, they say. “The death knell has already sounded for giant stretches of beaches along densely developed shorelines like those in Florida, Spain’s Costa del Sol, Australia’s Gold Coast and Brazil’s Rio de Janeiro,” says Pilkey.

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