Researchers assert that their findings can aid in shaping the state’s coastal conservation and monitoring initiatives. To preserve the current breadth of the beaches, the state would need to “apply extensive management efforts,” including beach nourishments, sand retention, fortifications, dune restorations, along with other engineered and nature-driven solutions, according to the survey.
“Beaches are natural assets, and it’s probable that human-directed management endeavors will need to increase to safeguard them,” stated Vitousek in 2017.
‘A juggling game’: Immediate fixes vs. enduring solutions to coastal erosion
Shalini Vajjhala, the Executive Director of the nonprofit PRE Collective, states that formulating a sustainable strategy to address coastal erosion and beach maintenance is “a juggling game.” This involves directing resources towards “pressing needs” that stem from incidents like extreme weather, while simultaneously curtailing the fundamental factors contributing to the impacts of climate change on the landscape. PRE Collective collaborates with communities across the U.S. to assist in planning for resilient and sustainable infrastructure development.
Climate change could result in up to 70% of California beaches being eroding by the end of the century, a U.S. government report found.https://t.co/5Y8DTeya6D
— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) June 5, 2024
Vajjhala states, “The juggling game is ensuring that we attend to the pressing needs and provide aid to those in distress, while concurrently reducing the underlying risks and damages.”
According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, nourishment doesn’t offer a long-term solution to beach erosion but does safeguard property, ports, and tourist spots in the short-term.
“Sustaining beaches with sand enables them to absorb waves and storm surges, which safeguards property from coastal hazards. Sandy beaches serve as crucial habitats for birds, turtles, and other wildlife. Tourism at recreational beaches is a vital component of the economy in numerous coastal regions. For all these reasons, beach restoration and nourishment are beneficial sediment management activities,” stated the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Beach nourishment acts as a temporary fix addressing immediate needs, says Vajjhala, but it can significantly impact local ecosystems when sand is introduced onto coral reefs or other delicate ecosystems.
Historically, beach nourishment has been more common on the East Coast, but initiatives have also been undertaken on the West Coast, and California has endeavored to better synchronize coastal sediment management and beach nourishment activities.
Vajjhala said that beach maintenance is frequently decided based on past usage and whether it’s traditionally been a sandy or rocky beach. If sandy beaches in states like Florida and North Carolina were to transform into rocky ones, much like the majority of the West Coast’s shore, it would significantly affect their local economy and environment.
“Temporary fixes attend to things that assist in managing the immediate symptoms. However, they don’t actually rectify the underlying issue, right? They don’t mitigate the severity of a storm. They simply deal with its aftermath. Hence, many of our solutions for coastal erosion that are more enduring aim to prevent it from occurring in the first place,” Vajjhala explained.
In recent years, Vajjhala said, increased federal funding and advancements in land, agriculture, water, and fire management are helping to endorse more sustainable, long-term solutions to coastal erosion.