Beach Nourishment and its Effects on the Coastal Zone

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Stacy Myers

Second Advisor

Bart Baca


Beaches are one of our most important resources. They are essential barriers against storms. They protect natural and developed areas. The coasts can absorb storms by changing their shapes and then rebuilding themselves during periods of gentle waves. Human activity however interferes with the natural cycles of the ocean. Over the years many strategies have been used in an effort to manage our shorelines. Fixed structures, such as seawalls, groins, and breakwaters, have been used for many years to create a barrier between land and sea. But in many cases these structures have aggravated erosion problems by interrupting the alongshore flow of sand. Without human interruption the ocean waves and currents would keep the beaches in perpetual motion. But since humans are active along the shoreline and beaches are such a major part of most people's lives, users and regulators must have ways to preserve beaches. Beach nourishment, which involves the addition of sand in designed contours to extend a beach and the nearshore shallows seaward, has grown in acceptance as a shore protection and beach restoration measure in the United States, Europe, and Australia. Beach nourishment has many supporters and critics. The transport of sand from borrow areas to an eroding beach has become the number one way of fighting coastal erosion and protecting upland structures.

The purpose of this report is to give an overview of:

  • Coastal erosion and the problems that are associated with its effects in coastal communities
  • Beach nourishment
  • Coastal management issues involved with placing sand on the beach
  • Potential environmental impacts of beach nourishment
  • Monitoring of the effects of a project

Hopefully this report will help others understand the scope of beach nourishment and the reasons for its use. This paper should also summarize the impacts of a project economically and environmentally. I also hope that people will get an understanding of the problems that we have caused by interrupting the natural dynamics of the ocean system by altering the environment in ways to support human activity.

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