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If you’ve ever enjoyed a local beach, visited some seaside cliffs, or explored a biodiverse estuary, you’ll know firsthand the joy and pleasure our coastlines have to offer. Although our coasts provide a beautiful place to live for humans, plants, and animals alike, our communities and habitats are at risk of destruction due to the negative effects of Climate change. Coastal erosion, in particular, is a grave threat to our seaside ecosystems.
Thanks to a number of factors like sea-level rise, flooding, and strong wave activity, the sand, rock, and soil of our coastlines are eroded. The risks of coastal erosion include property damage, the degradation of plant and animal habitats, and the loss of land. Coastal erosion is in part, caused by human activities, so it’s important that we do what we can to protect our communities from further destruction. If you’re interested in learning more about the consequences of coastal erosion and how to prevent them, keep reading for more information.
Causes of Coastal Erosion
Due to increasing sea level rise, strong waves, and flooding of our coasts, the sand, soil, and rocks that make up our coastlines are eroding more and more each year. While the process of erosion does happen naturally due to storms and waves, Global warming and the melting of glaciers and large ice sheets are raising sea levels and exacerbating the process. Additionally, since Global warming is largely determined to be anthropogenic or human-caused, this means that the effects of coastal erosion are also indirectly caused by human activities.
Housing Markets Threatened by Coastal Erosion in the Future
For many, living on the coasts is a desirable way of life. Whether you have beachfront property or have a home perched amongst seaside cliffs, coastal living is a coveted lifestyle. However, as coastlines recede at alarming rates, this way of life may be at-risk in your lifetime.
A study in Nature reported that nearly 2,452 miles of sandy coastline in the U.S. will be significantly reduced in the next 30 years. This works out to a total of 38% of U.S. coastlines. In the Southeast, coastlines are eroding at an annual rate of 25 feet, and in the Great Lakes region, this annual rate is double that at 50 feet. If you’re hoping to set down roots in a coastal area, it may be advisable to avoid the following housing markets that Zillow projected to be at-risk due to coastal erosion.
1. Ocean City, New Jersey
Although a popular destination for travelers and homeowners alike, the future outlook for Ocean City’s residential properties is uncertain due to coastal erosion. With about 38% of homes deemed vulnerable to erosion and $5,386,315,345 in home values estimated to be compromised by 2050, homeowners are best advised to stay away from the rising costs and risks of this coastal New Jersey housing market.
2. Galveston, Texas
Another area at-risk of coastal erosion is Galveston, Texas, which has nearly 23% of all homes located in a risk zone by 2050. Housing in Galveston is considered somewhat competitive, but with $1,031,591,600 worth of homes estimated to be comprised by coastal erosion, buying a house here may not be worth the investment.
3. Charleston, South Carolina
Charleston, South Carolina’s housing market may be among the top ten in the nation, but it’s also in the top five for being vulnerable to coastal erosion. About 6% of homes in this Southern city are potentially compromised come 2050, resulting in approximately $2,258,124,316 worth of property damage.
4. Virginia Beach, Virginia
Affordable homes have created strong demand for houses in the coastal community of Virginia Beach. However, this increased demand for homes has prompted developers to start building in coastal risk zones. By 2050, a little over 1% of homes in Virginia Beach are expected to be at-risk and an estimated $879,460,938 in property will be compromised.
5. Tampa, Florida
Although Tampa has the smallest amount of homes projected to be at-risk by 2050 (only 0.3% or 347 homes), houses in this market are being built in risk zones nearly 7 times faster than those being built in safe zones. With $160,585,034 in home values potentially compromised, Tampa’s housing market is looking risky as long as coastal erosion remains a problem.
Ways Homeowners Can Protect Their Property
Homeowners who currently live on the coast or are planning to should take the necessary steps to protect their property from coastal erosion.
Get a Site Assessment
By conducting a site assessment, professionals will come to observe your property and help you understand the conditions that will affect your home and land. During an assessment, your professional will determine whether and where erosion is present, what types, and what is causing it. As a result, you’ll be aware of what actions you may need to take to minimize damage or prevent it from happening.
Use Preventative Design Techniques
There are two types of design methods that can help prevent the risks of coastal erosion on property. The first is a hard method, which is a more invasive way of disrupting the natural ecosystem to prevent negative outcomes. Examples of this include constructing a seawall or bulkhead. These can be costly and may need special permitting to build. The second is a soft method, which is less invasive to the environment and consists of more natural techniques like adding vegetation or drainage.
Plan for Emergencies
Living on the coast means that you should be prepared for emergency situations due to natural disasters like flooding or storms. Make sure to create an emergency plan that includes detailed information for you and your family. Instructions for where and how to evacuate, what essentials to bring with you, and who to contact for help are all good pieces of information to have prepared.
Update your Home Insurance
Homes located on the coast need special protections when it comes to home insurance. It’s important to verify that you have coastal homeowners insurance and are covered for damage from flooding, erosion, or other natural disasters.
Inventory your Possessions
In case you need to evacuate and leave behind your home and possessions, it’s good to have an accurate inventory to use in an insurance claim later. Take pictures and keep records of valuables and store them either on a flash drive or hard drive. Additionally, these records will help even if you don’t evacuate but your property suffers damage while you are there.
Other Environmental Efforts to Save Your Community
Courtesy of The Zebra
Learn About Community Mitigation Projects
If you call a coastal place home, it may be in your best interest to learn about what community mitigation projects are happening in your area. Community mitigation projects often take the form of risk mitigation planning.
Risk mitigation planning means that city officials have developed steps and funded infrastructure to mitigate coastal hazards like flooding and created plans for the area to recover if a hazard does occur. It’s important to be aware of these plans if you live in a coastal area or if your city doesn’t have one of these plans in place, you should try advocating for them to fund and address this important issue.
Volunteer to Restore Habitats
Another way to prevent the effects of coastal erosion is to participate in habitat restoration. Join an organization in a coastal area and help rebuild vulnerable ecosystems by replanting native plants that will help prevent the soil and sand from eroding. Local organizations can always benefit from the manpower of volunteers and you can feel good about making a positive impact on your coastal community.
If you don’t know of an organization that restores habitats near you, try helping the coasts by volunteering to clean up a beach. This September is Coastal Clean Up Month, so feel free to join a local group or organize a beach cleanup of your own. Picking up trash and other debris that can damage our coasts is another great way to prevent their degradation.
Support Beach Nourishment in the Short Term
Nourishing a beach involves replenishing the sediment of a beach and widening the coast. Although it provides a temporary solution for coastal erosion, it’s not an effort that will solve the problem long term.
Promote Living Shorelines for the Long Term
A better alternative to combatting coastal erosion is living shorelines. These are protected and stabilized shorelines that are made up of natural vegetation and rock formations and act as a buffer between harsh wave conditions and the coast. They also bring the added benefits of protecting property.
Whether you live in or enjoy a coastal area, it’s important that we make an effort to preserve our coasts. Working to reduce the effects of coastal erosion through community mitigation projects and habitat restoration are a great way to ensure that they’re around for generations to enjoy in the future. For more ways to prevent the risks of coastal erosion, check out this guide!
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