A beach is a narrow strip of land that slopes downward toward a body of water. Most beaches are made up of sand. They can be found all over the world and are a favorite destination for many people for recreation, play, work, and other activities. In a recent survey, most respondents listed white, smooth sand and clear, blue water as the most desirable attributes of their ideal beach. Many also cited that they enjoy being away from big crowds. Other features that were mentioned include swimming conditions, seaweed and marine life, rocks and boulders, and beach bars and restaurants.
Beaches are continually changing, with new materials brought in by waves and currents and old ones carried away. Some of this material is deposited by winds, and this results in dunes. The shape of a beach may be altered by human activities such as building, dredging, and damming, which may significantly affect the ecosystem that inhabits it.
Different kinds of beaches are defined by the type of sand, rock, or other sediment that covers them. For example, sandy beaches have a gradually sloping profile, whereas rocky beaches have steeper slopes. The size of the particles at a beach is another important defining characteristic. The finer particles of a sandy beach allow waves to carry sand a greater distance, while the larger particles of a rocky beach cause them to lose energy and fall short of the shoreline.
Some beaches are home to exotic plants and animals that can only be found in a few places in the world, such as the Caribbean’s Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman Island. Other beaches are famous for the fossils they contain, such as those on Britain’s Jurassic Coast in southern England. Some beaches have been destroyed by erosion or by the construction of piers and buildings, while others have been enlarged by erosion.
Because sand is a valuable resource, beaches can be commercially exploited by providing facilities for recreational activities such as sunbathing, swimming, boating, surfing, and fishing. These beaches are often heavily visited and may have facilities such as lifeguards, showers, beach huts, snack bars, and hotels nearby.
Beaches need to be protected from human activities that prevent or limit their ability to do their jobs. Beach erosion can occur when people build structures too close to the water’s edge. In addition, urban development and rerouting of rivers can reduce the amount of sand that is washed ashore and deposited on beaches, leading to their loss or recession. On the other hand, if natural flora with root systems develops in a beachfront dune, it can stabilize the foredune, slow its inland movement, and protect the beach from erosion by freak waves and subsiding floodwaters. A beach without flora may quickly disappear. For this reason, it’s crucial to preserve beaches that still have flora and other coastal habitats. In addition, beachgoers can help by reducing pollution on the beaches they visit. Polluting debris can choke birds and cause marine mammals to become tangled in it, and floating plastics block algae and sea plants from getting the nutrients they need.