A beach is basically a landform at the edge of an inland sea, river, lake or stream. It generally consists of coarse grains, like sand, pebbles, shingle or clays. The coarse grains of a beach can be composed of different types of material, including shells, rocks (precious and non-precious), marine corals, algae, and microorganisms. The most commonly found element in a beach is quartz, which makes up about 90 % of the material available on beaches. The other main elements include iron, titanium, calcium, sodium and aluminum.
Beach formation is often stimulated by movements of water against the tide. Seawalls, which are made up of multiple indentations along their edges, are the product of this movement of water. In times of natural or human-made flooding, these barriers break and create new beach formations. Most commonly, seawalls are found along coastal areas, while man-made beaches are found along coasts with a high tide and near inland lakes or bays.
Coastal erosion occurs when a coastline losing its coastal integrity retreats into the sea or vice versa. This process can cause significant amounts of land loss around the coastline; however, coastal erosion can sometimes favor the re-growth of land. Natural beach nourishment, on the other hand, is the opposite: it occurs when water flows over and through the same area, restoring and improving the shoreline.
Storms also contribute to beach erosion. When a storm surge exceeds normal levels, it can flood portions of the ocean in which the beach lies. Sand and mud will collect in these areas, turning into a sludge that can erode the beach sand. Larger storms may also deal major damage to the coastline, washing away yards of sand and leaving behind dangerous holes that may choke in rising tides or in the case of large hurricanes, too.
Sand and mud erosion by storm surges can have a huge impact on the beaches in various ways. Some areas of the beach will remain completely unharmed by such events, while others will suffer severe damage. Sand can wash out into the ocean and make its way into nearby creeks, streams, bays, and oceans. This type of beach erosion happens more frequently in areas with high elevations, such as coastal areas that experience higher water levels. Sand is heavier than water and therefore becomes trapped under higher elevations.
Beach nourishment projects are important to stop erosion and restore the damaged landscape surrounding our nation’s beaches. This activity supports economic development, reduces beach clutter and litter, reduces risks of injuries due to beach debris, and allows for the creation of new habitat in the wake of ongoing storms. In the case of the latter, it provides a venue for native wildlife populations to flourish and create food sources. But most importantly, these projects provide a venue for tourists to visit these beautiful places without the threat of harmful ocean currents and rising tides destroying their beach experiences. As stated above, it is up to us to protect the beauty of our nation’s beaches!