Half of the world's beaches, many of which are in densely populated areas, could disappear by the end of the century under current trends of climate change and sea level rise, suggests a paper published in Nature Climate Change.
Sandy beaches occupy more than one third of the global coastline and have high socio-economic value. Beaches also provide natural coastal protection from marine storms and cyclones. However, erosion, rising sea levels and changing weather patterns threaten the shoreline, its infrastructure and populations.
Michalis Vousdoukas and colleagues analysed a database of satellite images showing shoreline change from 1984 to 2015. The authors extrapolated historical trends to predict future shoreline dynamics under two different climate change scenarios. They determined the ambient shoreline change, driven by physical factors (geological or anthropogenic) and shoreline retreat due to sea level rise. They also examined how erosion from storms may change under climate change and impact shorelines.
The results of these analyses indicate that around 50% of the world’s sandy beaches are at risk of severe erosion. The risk for erosion is particularly high in certain countries under both climate scenarios, including The Gambia and Guinea-Bissau, where over 60% of sandy coastline may be lost. When the total length of sandy beach projected to be lost is analysed, Australia would be the worst affected with nearly 12,000 km at risk. Canada, Chile, Mexico, China and the United States would also be greatly affected. Additional research could further improve these estimates, which may be impacted by human intervention.
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