All over the world, locals, and tourists, flock to ocean destinations during the warm summer months to relax and soak up the sun on the beautiful sandy beaches. But are these natural beaches, or are some influenced and aided by man? And what is an artificial beach?
An artificial beach is designed and created by man where there is no natural beach foundation or when there is damage caused by natural phenomena. The natural beaches are upgraded or nourished and aim to increase the coastal aesthetics’ in the area and for people’s comfort and safety.
Each spring, the beaches are groomed to benefit the locals and tourists who enjoy a sunny day on the beach. But it is not only purely for pleasure that the beaches are upgraded. Read on to discover why, when, and how artificial beaches are created!
Why Are Artificial Beaches Created?
Natural phenomena such as tsunamis and storms can completely change the look of the beach, and this is when beaches are upgraded and restored by artificial interventions and constructions.
In recent decades, sea levels and more frequent storms have caused rapid beach erosion. In the 1990s, only 10% of the world’s natural beaches were still growing, and 70% were eroding, and this is still happening to this day.
Erosion has resulted in many beaches being extended or created from scratch. However, the sustainability of these artificial beaches depends on the continued supply of sediments and how these beaches will withstand stormy weather.
When Are Artificial Beaches Created
Artificial beaches are created when the original beach’s safety, beauty, and comfort are not up to the standard or the ideal of what people expect when spending time on the beach. Beaches are upgraded for purposes of:
Examples of minor grooming to beaches are:
- Cleaning of beaches and removal of debris
- Beach nurturing and raking over the sand to improve the look
- Removal of sharp rocks and pebbles for the safety of the beachgoers
- Importing sand to fill over the existing or natural beach sand
Some beaches are reconstructed after storms to withstand rough weather conditions. Sandbags are used to safeguard the beach from high tides and protect buildings on or close to the beach from incoming waves. Sandbags also create a safe wall for erosion and potential flooding in the area.
Many seaside resorts do not have proper beaches to attract tourists. These resorts create artificial beaches by removing boulders and pebbles from an area and layering the area with artificial beach sand.
Beach nourishing or beach filling is the most popular method of creating an artificial beach. Large quantities of sand or sediment are added to combat erosion and increase beach width. This method is often referred to as “soft armoring.”
However, beach nourishment is not a long-term solution to beach erosion. The forces of erosion, such as storms, waves, and rising sea levels, do not disappear after the nourishment process. The protection will only last as long as the sand lasts, so continual nourishment is required, and these projects are costly.
Beach nourishment also has consequences in terms of the environment. The vast amounts of sand deposited on the beach by heavy machinery disturb the wildlife and kill beach animals. The new sand may not be of the same size grain or chemical makeup as the natural beach, which upsets the delicate habitat beach animals rely on.
Repeated or frequent nourishment impedes wildlife and ecosystem recovery caused by continual changes. Finding a balance between upgrading beaches and considering the environment is essential when creating artificial beaches.
Best Practices For Beach Nourishment
When nourishing beaches, the following points should be considered to ensure that the natural environment and habitat of beach animals is not majorly affected by the process:
- Use sand that has a similar composition to the natural sand as this will not disturb the natural habitat that beach animals rely on
- Allow the waves to move the sand onto and along the beach by placing the new sand up-coast or in the near-shore zone. This method of depositing sand will prevent a vast amount of sand from landing on the beach at once, and once it starts eroding, spilling into the ocean.
- Be mindful of the time of year of the nourishment project to avoid disturbing mobile organisms and beach birds that are more prevalent at certain times of the year.
- Rather perform a few nourishment projects instead of one large project as this will allow some animals to survive by keeping the project footprint as small as possible.
- Allow enough time between nourishment projects for the slowest reproducing beach organisms to recolonize and reproduce.
What Type Of Sand Is Used For Artificial Beaches?
Most of the world’s artificial beaches are made from quartz-rich sand, similar to natural beach sand. Natural beach sand is derived from weathering and erosion of landmasses and their mountains. These landmasses are composed of rocks made up of common minerals, one of which is quartz and another is feldspar.
The sand used to nourish beaches is derived from these methods:
- The most common method is to dredge sand from the sea bottom and blast it onto the shore through floating pipes.
- Sand is mined from underwater areas and riverbeds.
- Sand is mined from inland quarries. The sand is sorted and washed by machines and delivered to the beach. These mines can deliver beach sand to the precise specification (size, shape, and color) required by the client and have become a lucrative industry.
- Beach sand is often imported from islands or other countries.
Famous Artificial Beaches
Artificial beaches are found worldwide and are so well preserved and nurtured that it is often difficult to tell which is natural or artificial. Here are 6 well known artificial beaches in the US and other countries:
- Larvotto Beach, Monaco – is an artificial beach with private and public areas. The smooth, fine gravel was imported for the beach sand.
- Paris Plages, France – this artificial beach was created in 2002 in the heart of the city along the banks of the River Seine.
- Streets Beach, Brisbane, Australia – located in the middle of the city and surrounded by skyscrapers, this beach was created in 1992 on the south bank of the Brisbane River.
- Sunny Isles Beach, Florida – in September 2021, the beach sand was nourished and replaced by 269,000 cubic yards of sand from a mine in Hendry County, Florida.
- Miami Beach, Florida – this artificial beach was created in 1911 when John Collins bought this swampy land. This beautifully maintained beach has grown throughout the years and is a testament to man’s resilience and an architectural and engineering feat.
- Waikiki Beach, Hawaii – this beach is almost entirely hand-made. In the 1930s, sand was imported from Manhattan Beach, California, via ship and barge to Waikiki Beach. The importing stopped in the 1970s, and the beach continued to erode. In 2012 part of the beach was restored and widened by 37 feet.
With the impact of erosion over time and natural phenomena such as tsunamis and storms, beaches can change completely and require artificial interventions.
Many beaches throughout the world have been reconstructed, nourished, and often created from scratch with the help of man. These beaches are known as artificial beaches.