What are the dangers of coastal erosion?

rocky coast image by Yuri Gulyaev from Fotolia.com

Coastal erosion is a result of natural causes such as rising sea levels or man-made causes such as coastal mining and development. Some coastal erosion occurs as part of the naturally changing landscape, but it is also linked to the global warming problem, which contributes to rising sea levels.

The dangers of coastal erosion go further than the loss of a section of coastline, creating a greater problem than most people imagine.

Threat to Property

Beach-front properties are prime real-estate and property developers try to build as close to the beach as possible. Coastal hotels are also popular with tourists who want to be as close to the beach as possible. As the coastal landscape changes, the shoreline gets closer and closer to these beachfront properties. Dangers include flooding, damage to the structure of the property and in extreme cases, the possibility of buildings' disappearing into the sea.

Loss of Historical Sites

Coastal erosion is a threat for historical sites and areas of cultural interest on coastlines. Trading posts like Esook in Alaska have already disappeared into the sea. Each time coastal erosion washes away areas or items of historical importance, part of a nation's heritage is lost. While new developments may take the possibility of coastal erosion into consideration, it is too late to save some existing sites.

Destruction of Wildlife Habitats

Coastal erosion can destroy natural habitats in mangroves and coastal parks that are close to the sea, while man-made defences against erosion can also destroy coral reefs. Important wetland areas flood and the salinity of the inland waterways increases. Plants and vegetation in the flooded area are destroyed, as they can not survive in the new environment.

Loss of Flood Protection

A coastline, particularly if it has trees and established vegetation, can give valuable flood protection to coastal communities, natural coastal parks and wildlife habitats. When coastal erosion occurs, the threat of flooding to these areas increases.


A community on the coast often generates much of its income from tourism. The biggest attraction is usually the beach. If the beach disappears due to coastal erosion, it affects the income generated by the tourists attracted to area. Loss of tourism has serious economic consequences for the community.

Drinking Water Supplies

Rivers used for drinking water supplies become contaminated as coastal erosion pushes saltwater farther inland.

Man-made Coastal Erosion

Natural coastal erosion mobilises communities and property developers into action to prevent further damage. The jetties, sea walls or other barriers they build may prevent further erosion in that area; however, it often creates the same problem farther down the coast, with the complete disappearance of beaches in some cases.