A beach is a narrow strip of land containing different kinds of rocks and materials. The material on a beach varies depending on the geology of the surrounding area. It is made up of sand, pebbles, rocks, and seashell fragments. Most of these are products of weathering, a natural process in which water and wind wear away the land. The forces of nature can also cause changes in color or shape of a beach.
The composition of a beach is a function of its location in relation to the ocean. Generally, coastal areas are exposed to energetic wind systems and are more prone to large rocks and boulders. In contrast, coasts that are protected from storms will contain finer sediments and mud flats. These areas can also host mangrove forests. Moreover, the type of material and waves that are generated by the waves influence the shape of a beach.
During quiet weather, berms form on beaches. These structures indicate that the beach recently received sand from offshore. When a storm hits the region, a bar of sand will gradually move onto the beach. Depending on the conditions, these berms may be higher than the high tide line.
Sand moves along a beach in a zigzag pattern, depending on how it is affected by the waves. During the winter months, storm winds can toss sand into the air, causing the beach to erode. During the summer months, waves retrieve sand from the sandbars and build up the beach. The result is that summer beaches are wider and steeper than in the winter.
Coastal erosion is a major issue for coastal regions. In many cases, erosion can expose softer and less stable soils and rocks, changing the habitat of plants and animals. Ultimately, this process can lead to catastrophic changes to a beach. The sea grasses and corals that live in the sand may be buried and deprived of light.
The effects of erosion on beaches may be a combination of natural processes and human-made changes. The sediment that is deposited on the beach will eventually be eroded by waves, but it must be deposited in a compacted condition before it can be reclaimed. If new sediments are not compacted, they may form temporary groynes and encourage scouring behind them. In addition, new materials can be eroded before they integrate with the existing vegetation. Furthermore, new species may be introduced.
Changing tide levels will also affect the animals that live in the sand. Sand crabs, for example, move up and down the beach according to the tide. They feed by feeding on plankton they suck out of their antennae. Their adaptations to the sandy environment allow them to swim and burrow in the sand, while protecting them from waves.
By the end of the nineteenth century, sea bathing began to spread throughout the United States and parts of the British Empire. Its popularity grew because of the new romantic ideal of picturesque landscape. The New York beach resort of Revere was a prime example of this, and Henry Flagler’s construction of the Florida East Coast railway connected seaside sea resorts with winter travelers. Queen Victoria also helped spread the beach culture by patronizing the Isle of Wight and Ramsgate, Kent. These two seaside resorts were a hit among the wealthy.