Beach Erosion: A Benefit or a Loss?
Rising water level is one of nature’s primary tools for reshaping coasts or beaches and migrating them landward causing beach erosion. Beach erosion is a type of coastal erosion where wearing away or removal of beach or dune sediments by wave action, tidal currents, wind, and fast moving craft occurs.
Recently, concern arose on the apparent worsening of beach erosion due to sea level rise in turn attributed to climate change. Waves and storm surges appear to be stronger than usual. This altered the shape of the beaches significantly. What occurs in the beach areas in Palawan Island in the Philippines illustrate how beach erosion could get worse due to waves and storm surges.
Beach Erosion in San Rafael
Palawan is an elongated island province and most of the coastline area could become vulnerable to coastal or beach erosion. Beach erosion was observed in some of the coastline area of the province particularly at the shoreline area in Barangay San Rafael extending up to Barangay Lucbuan, Puerto Princesa City. Barangay San Rafael is located 60 kilometers north of Puerto Princesa City, the capital city of Palawan. It can be accessed by both land and boat from the city proper. A number of resorts are located along the coastline. The beach is laid with white sand that attracts many visitors.
Erosion along the shoreline of the barangay is very prominent, as evidenced by the scoured sand beneath the root system of the coconut trees (Figure 1). A seawall made from bamboo was constructed apparently to protect the beach from tidal actions and current that causes erosion. Likewise another seawall made of concrete was also constructed at the other side of the beach. The purpose of a seawall is to protect areas of human habitation, conservation and leisure activities from the action of tides and wave .
Fig. 1. Beach erosion in San Rafael showing the exposed roots of coconut.
Despite the seawall, beach erosion still occurred. Four decades ago, on the account of fisherfolks, there were approximately two rows of coconut trees planted along the coastal area of the barangay that disappeared through time. If coconut trees are planted 10 meters apart, most likely about 20 meters was eroded for the 50 year period.
The Benefits of Beach Erosion
Sand dunes, apparently carried by tidal currents and wind, are formed seaward. During low tide, this formation of sand dunes invites visitors to walk on it and enjoy a closer commune with once inaccessible portions of the sea.
Considering the high rate of accretion, it will be a matter of time before that section of the coast could serve as a place for human habitation. Beach erosion will be a welcome event as more land is acquired in places once occupied by water.
Beaches are one of the greatest treasures of Puerto Princesa City. The loss of these beaches, whether measured in terms of disappearance, degradation, or access, is a loss to the ecosystem, the economy, and the culture.
Based from the fisherfolk’s testimonies, in the next 100 years the national highway next to the eroded area will be gone. As a result, travel by land will be interrupted that will prevent the exchange of goods and services and the economy will be adversely affected.
Without human intervention to stop natural processes to go on by itself, would beach erosion be an advantage or a loss?
Ecopeat Nature’s Bounty PLC.2008. Coconut-Tree of Life. Sri Lanka. Available at: www.ecopeat.com/thecoconut-tree.html
GeoResources. 2001. Coastal Management. Available at: http://www.georesources.co.uk/coastman.htm
Scientific American. 2008. What Causes Beach Erosion? Available at: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=what-causes-beach-erosion
©2012 March 30 Ma. Rosario Aynon A. Gonzales