Coasts and Beaches
Coasts and beaches are probably where you’ve found yourself on a vacation or two, or if you’re part of the 50% of the world’s population that lives there, then coasts and beaches are your home. Unfortunately their popularity is putting these coastal ecosystems at risk. Industrial pollution, trash, and agricultural runoff, along with sea-level rise are all current problems. But even the most damaged coasts can be restored. This initiative is dedicated to protecting our coasts and beaches, and helping to restore them to their most productive state.
We love our coasts and beaches as places to live, work, and play. Forty percent of the world’s population lives on the coastal fringe, and that number is steadily growing. Vacationers eager to lie on white sandy beaches and swim in crystal clear waters generate billions of dollars in tourism revenue annually. Currently, coastal recreation is the largest and fastest-growing sector of the U.S. service industry. It accounts for about 85% of the $700 billion annual tourism-related revenues.
This constant push for new development projects and construction is compromising the health of coastal, beach and near shore marine ecosystems. Industrial pollution and agricultural runoff further alter these natural systems, creating coastal dead zones in places that used to be teaming with life. As ocean levels rise and seasonal storms become more intense, these destructive pressures will only get worse, dramatically altering the shape and composition of our coastlines.
Presently, more than $1 trillion of property and structures in the U.S. are at risk of being flooded and destroyed due to a sea level rise of two feet above the current sea level. This level could be reached between 2050-2070, and even sooner in some areas.
With the approximately 180 million people who flock to the coasts every year there comes trash. This trash includes things like plastic bottles, glass bottles, and tin cans, all of which can take anywhere from 50-1,000,000 years to decompose! All of this trash adds up and can render our beautiful beaches and coasts lifeless and toxic.
Our Coasts & Beaches Initiative provides grants to projects that promote best management practices and the creation of marine reserves. We also support important research on the value of the coast and beaches as natural systems that contribute to our economies and play a role in human health. In many cases, well-designed restoration projects can give coastal wetlands, estuaries, beaches, seagrass meadows and mangroves a second chance, even after they have been severely damaged or degraded. You can learn more about our seagrass work by visiting www.seagrassgrow.org.