13 June 2024
Beaches

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Beaches and dunes, our natural buffers against rising sea levels, drinking water supplies, and biodiversity, are increasingly squeezed by human infrastructure. A global analysis reveals that on average, one only needs to walk 390 meters on a random beach to find the nearest road or building. This proximity to human development compromises the protective functions of beaches and dunes, making coastal communities more vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Human Infrastructure and Rising Seas: Squeezing Beaches and Dunes



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Hey there, science enthusiasts! Today, we’re diving into a fascinating study that sheds light on the precarious situation of beaches and dunes worldwide. These natural wonders, which provide vital protection against flooding, serve as sources of drinking water, and harbor diverse ecosystems, are facing a dual threat: encroaching human infrastructure and rising sea levels.

The Global Perspective: Human Infrastructure Squeezing Beaches and Dunes

Imagine being dropped on a random beach anywhere in the world. On average, you’d only have to walk 390 meters to find the nearest road or building. This proximity of human infrastructure to the coastline is a global phenomenon, with some regions experiencing even tighter squeezes. In the densely populated Netherlands, the average distance between the sea and the first building or paved road is a mere 210 meters, while in France, it’s a shockingly low 30 meters.

Europe’s Trapped Coastlines and Oceania’s Relative Freedom: Human Infrastructure’s Impact

Among continents, Europe stands out with the most trapped beaches and dunes, with an average distance of 130 meters between the sea and human structures. On the other hand, Oceania boasts the least squeezed coastlines, with an average distance of 2.8 kilometers.

The Bleak Outlook: Human Infrastructure and Rising Seas

Unfortunately, the coastal squeeze is projected to worsen in the coming decades. Rising sea levels, fueled by climate change, will further narrow the space between buildings and the sea. In a natural setting, beaches and dunes would migrate inland, but human infrastructure acts as a barrier, preventing this natural adaptation. As a result, experts predict that 23 to 30% of beaches and dunes will be washed away or inundated by the year 2100.

Protected Areas: A Glimmer of Hope for Beaches and Dunes

The study also revealed a glimmer of hope. In areas where dunes have protected status, buildings and roads are found to be four times more distant from the coastline compared to unprotected areas. This highlights the importance of designating nature reserves and implementing measures to safeguard these vulnerable ecosystems.

The Need for Urgent Action: Protecting Beaches and Dunes from Human Infrastructure

Currently, only 16% of the world’s sandy coasts are protected. This calls for urgent action from governments, environmental organizations, and individuals alike. By raising awareness, advocating for stronger policies, and supporting conservation efforts, we can help protect these vital natural buffers that safeguard our communities and ecosystems.

Conclusion: A Call to Action to Save Beaches and Dunes from Human Infrastructure

Beaches and dunes are under siege, facing the dual threats of human encroachment and rising seas. The consequences of inaction are dire, with the potential loss of natural flood protection, drinking water sources, and biodiversity. It’s time for us to take a stand, to protect these precious ecosystems and ensure their survival for future generations. Let’s work together to give beaches and dunes the space they need to thrive, for the benefit of both humanity and the planet.

FAQ’s

1. What is the “coastal squeeze”?

The coastal squeeze refers to the phenomenon where human infrastructure, such as roads and buildings, encroaches on beaches and dunes, reducing their natural buffer zone.

2. Which continent has the most trapped beaches and dunes?

Europe has the most trapped beaches and dunes, with an average distance of 130 meters between the sea and human structures.

3. Which continent has the least squeezed coastlines?

Oceania has the least squeezed coastlines, with an average distance of 2.8 kilometers between the sea and human structures.

4. What percentage of beaches and dunes are projected to be lost by 2100?

Experts predict that 23 to 30% of beaches and dunes will be washed away or inundated by the year 2100 due to rising sea levels.

5. How can we protect beaches and dunes?

We can protect beaches and dunes by raising awareness, advocating for stronger policies, supporting conservation efforts, and designating nature reserves to safeguard these vulnerable ecosystems.

Links to additional Resources:

https://www.wur.nl/ https://www.sciencedirect.com/ https://www.nature.com/

Related Wikipedia Articles

Topics: Beaches, Dunes, Rising sea levels

Beach
A beach is a landform alongside a body of water which consists of loose particles. The particles composing a beach are typically made from rock, such as sand, gravel, shingle, pebbles, etc., or biological sources, such as mollusc shells or coralline algae. Sediments settle in different densities and structures, depending...
Read more: Beach

Dune
A dune is a landform composed of wind- or water-driven sand. It typically takes the form of a mound, ridge, or hill. An area with dunes is called a dune system or a dune complex. A large dune complex is called a dune field, while broad, flat regions covered with...
Read more: Dune

Sea level rise
Between 1901 and 2018, average global sea level rose by 15–25 cm (6–10 in), an average of 1–2 mm (0.039–0.079 in) per year. This rate accelerated to 4.62 mm (0.182 in)/yr for the decade 2013–2022. Climate change due to human activities is the main cause.: 5, 8  Between 1993 and 2018, thermal...
Read more: Sea level rise

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