A beach is a narrow, gently sloping strip of land that is created by waves. Some beaches are rocky, and others are sandy. While the word “beach” is often used for both types, it is important to note that the two are distinct.
Beaches can be made of sand, gravel, rock, or any combination of the above. These materials can be carried by waves and ocean currents and deposited by tides. During storms, sand can be thrown into the air and become a sandbar. Storm winds can also erode the coastline. Seawalls are often built to prevent the sand from relocating. In some countries, hard engineering is important in order to protect beaches from erosion.
Beaches are a great habitat for many organisms. For example, the sea turtle lays eggs on ocean beaches and the birds feed on the material left by waves. Adding coarser sediments to sandy beaches can stabilize the area, but it can also eliminate some species. Also, the presence of floating plastic may prevent sea plants from developing.
Although there is no way to stop the natural processes of coastal erosion, human activities can speed up the process. For example, in Hawaii, parrotfish can produce hundreds of pounds of sand each year. However, these animals have short life cycles, and they need to find food and water. Taking their shells from the beach may also destroy their habitat.
Sea level rise is a serious threat to beaches. Over the past few decades, ocean levels have risen by several inches. This is causing some beaches to disappear. Several beaches on Kauai are now completely eroded. Those on Oahu are being eroded by stream mouths being cleared.
To combat beach erosion, a number of coastal communities are taking actions to protect their beaches. Most communities want to provide storm protection for their beachfront buildings, and they are working to improve their recreational beaches. Other local authorities are promoting beach nourishment, a procedure that involves pumping sand onto a beach. The best results are found by adding sand to a beach in a series of smaller additions at one to two-year intervals.
Often, when beaches are replenished, they disappear faster than their natural predecessors. Because of this, it is important to remember that beaches are in retreat. It is a good idea to keep trash from the shore. If you leave garbage or any other debris on the beach, be sure to place it in a sealed container so it can’t be washed out into the sea. Similarly, don’t throw plastic on the shore. Floating plastic can tangle up marine mammals, and it can prevent other animals from finding the nutrients they need to survive.
As with all landforms, the boundaries of human-altered beaches are always a reflection of human values. This is especially true in regions where there are conflicting cultural or religious beliefs. Thus, when considering the benefits and drawbacks of various coastal management approaches, it is important to look at how the different stakeholders perceive the coastal environment.