The legendary US investor Warren Buffet once said “invest in land because they’re
not going to make anymore of it”. He was certainly correct, in fact each year the earth loses land due to coastal erosion.
You may have heard of it, maybe not, but you may just want to put that coastal home with a sea view on hold till you have finished this page.
What is Coastal Erosion?
There are many causes of coastal erosion. Nature plays a large part, the wind, waves and weather all affect the erosion rate of our coastlines.
Coastal erosion is the removal of rocks and sediment from land areas adjacent to large bodies of water. The erosion can be caused by the abrasive action from wind and water. The most prevalent process in coastal erosion is wave action.
Ocean waves are caused by the occurrence of current circulation cells which result from the imparting of energy to water from wind, movement of watercraft, or displacement of the underlying ocean floor. Once the waves nears the shoreline, in the area called the tidal zone, the circulation cell causes displacement of the wave energy, which is dissipated when the wave impacts the shore. Wind action is another significant source of erosion.
Coastal areas are generally made up of sediments deposited by rivers, which are subsequently entrained, broken up, and redeposited by coastal wave action. Beaches are formed when finer sediments are deposited and accumulated along coasts.
This beach sediment tends to migrate within the tidal zone along the coast, trending in the direction of the ocean currents. Onshore and offshore winds can abrade relatively softer sediments found along coasts. Inshore from the tidal zone, winds can entrain and redeposit finer beach sands, forming a series of dunes.
The presence of vegetation in dune and beach areas can slow or prevent wind and wave erosion. Extreme weather phenomena, such as hurricanes and storm surges, can cause localized catastrophic erosion of beaches, resulting in removal of all beach sand within the tidal zone overnight. The much slower process of chemical weathering can also cause erosion of beach sediments. This process occurs over thousands or millions of years
In coastal areas all over the world, whenever the sea meets the land you can bet your last buck that there is coastal erosion.
Coastal erosion is usually a slow and random process which happens over many hundreds of years, each area is different of coast can erode at different rates per year. There are many factors that come into play when judging the speed at which the coastline is disappearing.
It’s not uncommon for areas of the British or American coast to lose 10 or more feet of land per year. Large storm and high winds can greatly increase the rate of erosion and rising sea levels will only add to this.
We humans also have a big part to play in the rate of coastal erosion, highly developed coastlines usually suffer from interruption of sediment sources and long shore sediment transport which only increases the rate of erosion and reduces natural barriers such as shingle.
Coastal erosion already costs tons of money, each year hundreds of billions of pounds are paid our across the world to those affected by coastal erosion. Coastal areas are also responsible for large swathes of the tourist market and if their are no beaches will their still be tourists?
As the coast erodes industrial sites and communities nearby will be forced to pack up and leave behind their homes and their businesses, costing jobs and loosing economic output.
In addition to the human and financial cost many fish and wildlife habitats will be destroyed and sites of historical interest will be lost as the coastline erodes
The most notable thing we lose from coastal erosion is land, this is a resource which we can’t make more of and should do our best to preserve what we currently have.
Most scientists agree that the Earth is heating up and the ice caps are melting. This raises sea levels which in turn takes more land under threat.
Whilst coastal erosion cannot be stopped it can be halted or managed and the single biggest threat to those management programs is Global Warming and rising sea levels.
Rather than occurring over the same time scale with sea level rises, erosion of beaches and coastal cliffs is expected to occur in large bursts during storm events as a result of increased wave height and storm intensity.
Because of these large events, scientific models predict that shoreline erosion may outpace sea level rise by 50 to 200 fold.
Coastal erosion affects everyone on this planet, even if you don’t live near the coast, fewer and shorter beaches anyone?
Whilst the biggest effects will be seen in coastal communities where livelihoods will be destroyed. Coastal areas will also see an increase in destructive flooding and storms as the natural barriers are eroded.
It also damages waste water management systems which could lead to a compromise in the quality and safety of our sewage systems and drinking water quality. In certain areas it has the potential to shut down low lying industrial sites and interfere with public power supplies.
In America, the Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that 85 percent of America’s beaches have been eroding for decades. Erosion rates along the Atlantic coastline average between two and three feet per year while areas along the coast of Louisiana have averaged as high as 50 feet a year.
Coastal erosion refers the repeated removal of sediment from shorelines as a result of the constant impact of wind and water on areas with low vegetation. Wind moves sand and earth particles away from beaches while the constant impact from waves sweeps particles into the ocean.
The erosion of coastlines is an unavoidable phenomenon, whilst it cannot be completely halted methods have been used to reduce the impact it has on our coastlines. The easiest way to prevent costal erosion is to plant vegetation around the coastline. The roots of vegetation burrow into the earth and keep the coastline intact.
Larger projects include building sea walls to reduce the energy impact of waves on coastlines. This method will slowdown coastal erosion where the barricade is placed, but can also concentrate water energy in other areas of the coastline accelerating coastal erosion in those areas.
Another more expensive option is beach nourishment, in which earth (mostly sand) is pumped onto the coastline. By expanding the size of the beach the impact of energy on a coastline is dissipated through a greater area.
Most importantly efforts must be taken to reduce the general climate change. Higher temperatures mean a rising sea level and more costal storms, all contributing to coastal erosion.
Pictures of Coastal Erosion from Around the World
The Story of Hall Sands : A Tale Corruption & Coastal Erosion
Once a thriving, lavish fishing village, today Hall sands lies under the ocean’s waves. During a giant storm in January of 1917, the village of Hall sands was buried under water as it collapsed into the sea. The entire village was destroyed, along with the livelihoods of its residents.
The blame for Hall sands’ tragic fate has been placed upon the greed of modern man. Without the knowledge of its residents, shingle was taken away at regular intervals from the coast of Hall sands in order to extend the naval dockyard at Keyham, a project that was undertaken by one of the country’s most lucrative companies, Sir John Jackson Limited.
The sad story of Hall sands’ end is a testament to the consequences of man’s greed. In interfering with Mother Nature, the coast of Hall sands was made even more vulnerable to coastal erosion. Eventually, the coastline was weakened so severely that even if the storm that knocked the village into the sea had not arrived, the end result would have inevitably come along anyway.
Today, the only thing that remains of Hall sands is the ruins of its chapel, which resides on top of the cliff where Hall sands used to stand.
Do you live near the coast or have a story about coastal erosion? Let us know in the comments below.