A beach is a strip of sandy or pebbly shoreline, usually bordering a sea or lake. Its formation is due to the continuous action of waves and prevailing winds on the coastline. These natural forces continually deposit sand, cobbles, gravel, and shells on the shoreline. These deposits are referred to as sediments.
Beaches are found all over the world and are a popular destination for recreational activities. They also play a significant economic role in many coastal regions and economies. Many beaches have amenities, such as lifeguards, changing rooms, and showers, that support their use by the public. They may also have hospitality venues, such as restaurants and shacks, as well as housing, both permanent and seasonal.
Generally, a beach has a sandy or cobblestone surface and is sheltered by dunes. Its characteristics depend on the size and type of sediments upstream, how they are transported by water and wind, and the turbidity of the surrounding waters. A beach can be as long as several kilometres and as wide as 20 metres.
Most people associate beaches with the ocean, but they can also be found along lakes and rivers. In fact, a beach can be any place where sediments accumulate along a water’s edge.
The composition of a beach depends on the nature and quantity of the materials upstream, how they are transported by water, wind, and currents, and the turbidity of the waters. The shape of a beach also depends on how erosion and deposition occur. A beach can be a broad, gently sloping strip of sediment or a narrow barrier of sediment with sharply defined edges.
A beach can be a source of food for crabs, birds, insects, and other small animals. Plants such as sea grasses grow in the sand. Beaches are often rich in marine fossils.
Humans also have a big impact on the environment, and this is no less true for beaches. People walk and play on beaches, bringing waste with them and leaving behind trash. In addition, the construction and maintenance of amenities such as cabanas, walkways, and boardwalks can affect a beach’s ecosystem. A recent study showed that a beach’s ecological health can be improved by removing some of the amenities that attract people. The same study also found that increasing the amount of beach vegetation can enhance a beach’s ecological value. This is one of the ways that humans can help protect beaches for future generations.