Are natural sandy beaches facing extinction?

Orrin Pilkey, Andrew Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


On a generational scale, on developed shorelines, the world’s recreational beaches are doomed. This is largelybecause of the widespread assumption that preservation of buildings is a higher priority than preservation of beachesin response to sea level rise. Continuing beach degradation will be inevitable through active or passive processes.Active degradation means the actual removal of the beach, mostly as a result of shoreline engineering or mining. Byfar, the most important cause of beach loss in this category will be hard structures, especially seawalls. Theincorrectly but widely perceived panacea of each replenishment will become economically impossible because of raised sea levels. Replenishment leads to intensified beachfront development and this ironically and inevitably will increase the future construction of seawalls. Passive degradation refers to reduction of the quality of the beach to thepoint that human usage drops, along with political support for costly beach preservation by nourishment. Passive degradation includes trash accumulation, oil spills, beach driving and most importantly, pollution, which is increasing rapidly apace with population growth and remains largely unrecognized by the beach-using public.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-436
JournalJournal of Coastal Research
VolumeS.I. 7
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 28 Apr 2014


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