Beaches / Dunes

Development near beaches can have severe negative effects on the highly specific flora and fauna that inhabit this dynamic ecosystem. For example beaches are nesting sites for sea turtles. Development and lighting too close to these beaches disorientates newly hatched sea turtles that head towards the artificial lights on land rather than the moon, out to sea. The movement of significant amounts of sand during construction destroys vegetation and causes dunes to disappear. Dunes and beaches are by their core nature constantly changing and adapting to the forces of waves, winds, and storms. Paved roads and other structures obstruct the natural flow of sand. Impervious surfaces, such as roads, driveways, and car parks inhibit vegetation growth, which is necessary protection against erosion, overwash, and flooding. Beaches are starved of sand in areas in front of seawalls and other shoreline structures designed to protect buildings and coastal lands. These seawalls stop land from eroding but the erosion is refocused on the beach. Destroying dunes to make level building sites also removes sand that the beach will need as a buffer during the next storm.
 
The loss of dunes constitutes the loss of a coastal area's major defence against wind and waves and of a unique and diverse community of wildlife and vegetation.

Wind-swept dunes near the abandoned Coast Guard Station, Nags Head, North Carolina, USA. Taken by William Folsom, courtesy of NOAA, NMFS.

 

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