What’s Causing Florida’s Beaches to Shrink?

What’s Causing Florida’s Beaches to Shrink?

Every year the world’s beaches continue to shrink. In the past few decades, Florida for instance, has lost at least a third of its shoreline. From the western edge to the southern tip of Florida, state communities along the coast continue to struggle to maintain sand levels on ever-shrinking shores.

Critical erosion on Florida beaches is a significant cause of shrinking. Human encroachment on the coastal line through development leads to further erosion.  During the 1980’s as erosion continued in Florida, the Department of Environment Protection (DEP) approved over 41,000 permits for construction of houses and resorts along the shores. DEP allowed the development of structures in the areas that were suffering critical erosion. 

Florida beaches are an excellent source of revenue for the state providing over $3 billion income from tourists. One of the most significant assets of Florida is under threat from hurricanes, sea level rises, and other tropical storms.  The continued development on the coastal line and rising worldwide sea levels has led to gradual deterioration of the shoreline. Devastating storms such as Hurricane Matthew can alter or quicken the erosion patterns. The winds could also destroy developments and reshape the coastline. Storms such as Matthew have the potential to pull sand from the shoreline into the deep sea. However, typical tides and sea waves do not do the damage that storms do.

In most cases, people on beach-built structures construct seawalls and other hard fortifications to reduce the impact of the storms on their houses. Nevertheless, the seawalls limit the regular tidal and wave action, which deposit sand on the beach.  Eventually, the waves will wash the sand away.  High seawalls might offer hurricane protection, but erosion in the long term will shrink the beach. 


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