Beach erosion, also known as coastal erosion, is a natural event that occurs over a gradual amount of time. It happens due to ocean waves lapping at the shoreline and wearing it away by carrying sand and sediment elsewhere, such as the ocean floor.
The effects of beach erosion get worsened in extreme weather conditions, such as high winds and strong tidal currents.
Why Is Beach Erosion Bad News?
For the most part, beach erosion isn't a problem that happens overnight. As mentioned earlier, it's a gradual process, but it's one that can have long-term or even permanent consequences.
Some people assume that the effects of beach erosion are hyped up or sensationalized. But, beach erosion is terrible news for two reasons: damage to the coastline and destruction of property. The following explains more about these long-lasting effects in detail:
Lack Of Coastline Protection
When waves crash on the shoreline, they take away loose sediment and sand. Some of it ends up further up or down the coast, while the rest gets deposited on the ocean floor.
Beaches undoubtedly look pretty with lots of golden sand, but that's also there to help protect the shorelines. When loose sediment from cliffs gets pulled into the ocean, it takes some of that sand with it.
That ultimately results in the shoreline becoming smaller and eventually moving further inland. If there's no coastline protection, the erosion process will keep continuing.
Damage To Cliffs And Property
Another issue to consider is the damage to cliff faces. While some waves don't reach very high in calm conditions, they can be very strong during stormy weather.
When strong waves crash onto cliff faces, they ultimately remove a lot of soil, dirt, and sediment and deposit it elsewhere. As you can appreciate, that can be dangerous if people walk underneath the cliffs on the beach.
Moreover, if some residents have cliff-top properties close to the shoreline, they will likely see their homes demolished by the wave forces.
How To Prevent Beach Erosion
Mother nature is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with and has the power to cause destruction and chaos in her wake if she so wishes. However, the news isn't all bad; it's possible to protect beaches from the effects of erosion and avoid catastrophic consequences like the destruction of properties and danger posed to human lives.
With that in mind, it's worth looking at the following options that currently get used across the country and globally to protect beaches and shorelines:
A groin might sound like a part of your anatomy, but in coastline defense terms, it's a long, wall-like structure that gets constructed on beaches and extends into the ocean.
The goal of groins is to act as barriers against strong currents. Groins also help control how sand moves; when a wave hits a groin, it loses strength and deposits sand and sediment on one side of the wall.
It's an excellent beach defense method and one that you've probably seen at virtually any beach you've visited in the past.
A jetty is a long structure made of stone, concrete, metal, or wood that stretches out into the ocean. Jetties typically get built in pairs, but more than two can get constructed depending on the channels.
When sand and sediment build up on one side of the jetties, they can get redistributed elsewhere on the beach to diminish beach erosion.
Jetties also serve another purpose, and that's to prevent a build-up of sand on channels traversed by ships, boats, and other vessels.
A breakwater is a type of sea defense barrier built parallel to the shoreline, or in some cases, at an angle to it. A breakwater aims to act as a wave barrier and "break" the water (hence the name).
When a wave hits a breakwater, it ends up depositing any sand and sediment on the barrier, thus protecting the shoreline from beach erosion.
The only downside to breakwaters is they don't get constructed everywhere along the shoreline. That means some areas can still be vulnerable to beach erosion.
As the name might suggest, seawalls are structures that protect the shoreline from any wave action. They are similar to breakwaters in that they reduce the velocity of waves crashing into them, and any sand and sediment carried in those waves gets deposited.
But, the difference between the two is that seawalls get constructed on the shoreline itself instead of some distance away from them.
Seawalls are very effective at preventing coastal erosion. However, their effectiveness only applies to the stretches of shoreline they protect.
Did you know that the strategic planting of vegetation is also another practical way to protect shorelines? The roots of plants get firmly stuck in the sand and form a natural barrier against the ocean, ultimately resulting in diminished beach erosion.
Using plants to protect against erosion is a method often employed inland to preserve land around bodies of water such as lakes. When coastal plants get used along shorelines, it creates the same effect.
Flexamat Erosion Control Solutions
Lastly, an erosion control matting solution like Flexamat can provide a practical way to stop beach erosion and halt any future damage to nearby properties.
Flexamat is an articulated concrete block system comprising concrete blocks spaced out from each other and interlocked with a high-strength geogrid.
It's a solution that you can use with vegetation to create the ultimate defense against the effects of ocean waves crashing into cliffs and taking sediment and sand with it.
It's no secret that beach erosion is a growing problem, both in the United States and beyond. Ultimately, the issue will worsen due to the effects of climate change. However, there are several actionable steps you can take to diminish and stop the threat of beach erosion.