Erosion is a concern in almost every developed costal area; when you’re living on an island, the issue is perhaps even more pressing. In Ireland, a group called Coastwatch performs an annual survey of the condition of the country’s coasts.
The results of the most recently released survey don’t look good: Nearly a third of the island’s coastal sites are under threat. One problem identified at multiple sites is a “ricochet effect” in which the measures taken to prevent erosion in one place—specifically, hard-armor structures like sea walls—end up causing more problems at adjacent sites.
The country has no overall erosion management policy, so separate jurisdictions and landowners are taking measures without necessarily coordinating with others up and down the coast. A national policy is said to be in the works, according to Coastwatch’s coordinator.
The survey was the largest the group has undertaken, covering more than 600 sites. One promising sign was the prominence of seagrass, which can help stem erosion, as well as seaweed forests and mussel beds. However, aquaculture facilities—which do not require licensing in Ireland—are encroaching on some of the seagrass habitats.
The survey also looks at features like trash accumulating at the various sites. Although the overall amount of consumer trash such as drink containers was lower than in almost any other survey done in the last 30 years, two types of debris are increasing: waste from aquaculture practices, and debris from the sanitary sewer system, including wet wipes—a growing problem in many countries including the US.