Beaches are a thriving ecosystem that everyone can enjoy in numerous ways. They provide a place for sea life to thrive. Tide pools provide learning opportunities. Sitting out on a beautifully sunny day is a wonderful way for many to relax. Those waves that come up on the beach, however, do more than just provide subject material for photographers. They create erosion that can eventually cause a beach to disappear.
When beaches are required to support a local ecosystem, then a process known as beach renourishment.
The Pros of Beach Renourishment
1. Beaches are able to stay intact.
Enough erosion can cause a beach to eventually collapse. This collapse means the local ecosystem collapses with it and create destruction throughout the chain of life. By renourishing the beach, the ecosystem can be saved and therefore preserve the chain of life that exists locally. In return, the costs of repairing the beach can be made up over time with various usage fees.
2. It creates a safer beach environment.
Once enough sand erodes from a beach, there can be numerous hazards that could find the feet of visitors or the bellies of sea life. Replacing the sand helps to provide a safer experience for the entire ecosystem. By giving sea life a place to burrow, the possibility of toxins spreading throughout the local chain of life is reduced and ultimately provides the ecosystem with better sustainability.
3. Beaches are better buffers.
Waves that don’t have a beach to buffer their impact can be a violent force of nature. The waves crash mightily against whatever barrier they do encounter and this added force actually increases the potential for erosion. Beach renourishment helps to keep the gentle buffer in place and provide a better level of protection for nearby properties.
4. It protects inland properties.
Many beaches have a steep incline that leads up from the water. These inclines are very susceptible to erosion and any moisture may impact them in a negative way. With enough instability present, mudslides and other dangerous situations may occur that could affect lives. Beach renourishment helps to protect inland properties by providing better stability to these inclines.
5. It can secure the environment for future generations.
A properly engineered beach renourishment project can create a permanent beach that will be around for everyone to enjoy for years to come.
The Cons of Beach Renourishment
1. It is a temporary measure to fix a permanent problem.
Ultimately beach renourishment is only a bandage for an ongoing problem. Beach erosion has a core problem that is not addressed by this process. Without a plan to address the erosion issue, eventually beach renourishment will need to occur again and again to preserve the ecosystem.
2. It alters the natural course of nature.
Natural sand compacts over time as a way to prevent itself from being eroded away. When the tide is out, walk out on the sand that exists between the moist, soft sand that a foot sinks into and the powdery sand that rarely experiences waves. The middle zone is firm and protective, which is why wild beaches tend to be more durable. Much of the replacement sand ultimately just floats away with the first waves.
3. It is incredibly expensive.
It is not uncommon for a beach renourishment project to be a $100 million investment. Although some projects have private financing and backing, many of these projects wind up being funded by taxpayers. That’s $100 million which could also go to bridge repair, infrastructure development, or social programs.
4. The process of renourishment can interrupt natural life cycles.
The process of repairing a beach can be very extensive. Beaches are often extended vertically and horizontally during the repair. Sand is often imported for this process, creating grain variations that can be problematic for local sea life. Even after the repair is completed, the natural life cycle may still be interrupted by changes to wave patterns, the shape of the beach, and other unforeseen factors that occur locally.
5. It may reduce light availability.
Changes in beach size and shape can affect the way sunlight reaches the shallow tidal zones. In return, plant and sea life can be affected in positive and negative ways. The biggest negative is that lower or higher levels of sunlight can cause species growth to overwhelm the system or species death.
Beach renourishment can effectively protect a local ecosystem, but it comes at a sometimes steep price. It is up to each local community to determine if they are willing to pay the required price to repair a beach. By weighing all of the pros and cons of this process, the correct decision can be made at the local level.
Crystal Lombardo is a contributing editor for Vision Launch. Crystal is a seasoned writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience. She has been an editor of three popular blogs that each have had over 500,000 monthly readers.