The countless variations of beaches around the world make for a fascinating study. These stretches of coastline are constantly changing and evolving, with each tidal cycle revealing new and different features. In Figure 2.1, you’ll see how a beach is divided up into different areas. The shapes and sizes of these sections differ according to the natural environment, and each one has its own unique characteristics. If you want to explore them, follow these guidelines:
The waves and wind that affect a beach’s shape and profile change its course over time. When the waves are low and the water recedes, the sediment deposited on the berm remains in place. The sediment is carried up the beach during the summer, and remains there when the water recedes. Onshore winds also carry sediment farther inland, enhancing the dunes. While a beach is constantly changing, it does remain relatively the same.
The seaside was once the exclusive domain of the elite, but that has changed. A quarter of Americans visit a beach each year and two-thirds of the population in California go to the seaside on a regular basis. Beaches became the symbol of the “good life” in the United States. They remain a popular, affordable way to get out of the city and connect with nature. The popularity of the beach has risen dramatically since the late nineteenth century.
A beach is a long, narrow strip of land that is primarily comprised of loose particles of rock, sand, and seashell fragments. The materials on a beach are typically a result of weathering, and are the result of many years of wind and water action. Beaches are popular recreational areas, with beautiful sand and a warm water temperature. And, the sand is perfect for swimming, surfing, and watching the marine life.
A beach is a special place, but there are many other types. For instance, it can be a part of a gulf or a lake. Its sand is deposited by the tides and waves and forms the edge of a bay. The shoreline of a bay is usually smaller than that of a gulf. In the case of a gulf, a beach forms a barrier between the land and the water.
Sandy beaches make up a third of the world’s coastline. They play a critical recreational role and are often the main economic drivers for local communities. Some of these beaches are actively restored through beach nourishment and other activities. Large rivers and lakes may also host beaches. There are also larger geological units called bars and lakes. The beaches of these locations are often accompanied by manmade infrastructure, such as lifeguard posts, showers, shacks, and restaurants.
Beaches are populated by animals, as well as plants. Birds and marine mammals often become entangled in pieces of floating plastic, which is harmful for their health. Floating plastic also prevents algae and sea plants from growing and makes tide pools too dirty for them to live in. As a result, beach visitors should avoid bringing any trash to the beaches or discarding them. They should also never take live animals from the beach.