Canada, Russia, Chile, Greenland, Australia, Brazil, Indonesia and the US are some of the countries that are home to large stretches of coastline that are still intact and unaltered. The rest, especially in tropical and temperate regions, suffer great degradation due to human pressure due to the expansion of urban areas, population density, crops, chemical contamination or maritime transport, among other threats.
Millions of people around the world depend on coastal regions and their ecosystem services for food and even shelter from storms. But nevertheless, the high human pressure exerted on these areas, in addition to the effects of climate change, causes degradation that is increasing.
In fact, only 15.5% of the coasts -located in Canada, Russia, Greenland, Chile, Australia, USA, Svalbard, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Falkland Islands, the Solomon Islands and Brazil– actually remain intact. Thus concludes a study with data from 2013 and published in the journal Conservation Biology.
“It is likely that human pressure on coastal regions has increased since then, which means that our results are probably an underestimate of the current levels of integrity of these areas”, Brooke Williams, lead author of the work and researcher at the University of Queensland, in Australia, tells SINC.
Coastal areas containing seagrass beds and coral reefs have the highest levels of human pressure, especially in temperate and tropical areas, compared to other coastal ecosystems. “These are also the places where people depend on the services of coastal ecosystems to survive,” stresses the researcher. This causes its inhabitants to be “extremely vulnerable”.
According to the team, the research is a “stark reminder” that these areas are home to high levels of biodiversity so Urgent measures are necessary to conserve them and restore those that are degraded by high human occupation. “Mostly to help mitigate climate change,” adds Williams.
The scientists reached these conclusions by analyzing two data sets on the human footprint (terrestrial human pressure) and the cumulative human pressure index (marine human pressure) to test the effects of people on the entire surface of the Earth.
“Our analysis has shown us that coastal ecosystems are under pressure from terrestrial and marine influences. Understanding why coastal ecosystems are under pressure can help us design and implement more targeted management strategies,” says study co-author Amelia Wenger of the University of Queensland.
A call to action to take back the coast
Through his research, experts call on governments to proactively conserve remaining undisturbed coastal regions, while the most affected are restored.
“Coastals are where most people live and they need to function. Our results show a frightening story, as most of them are highly degraded and many are not recoverable. The time to proactively plan and save the Earth’s remaining intact coastlines is now,” says James Watson, from the same Australian university and co-author of the study.
In addition to conservation efforts, scientists point out that protecting and restoring the ecological integrity of coastlines is essential to achieving global sustainability goals, such as combating climate change, and meeting United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
“Therefore, the time is right to assess the intensity of human pressure on coastal regions and contextualize this assessment within the framework of global sustainability goals to prioritize actions that nations can take to conserve, sustainably manage and restore coastal regions for the benefit of biodiversity and the people who depend on them for survival”, Brooke Williams concludes to SINC.
Human activities that exert pressure on coastal ecosystems climate change joins. Although scientists have not included the variables of the climate crisis in their research, they do reveal that it plays “a disastrous role for the integrity of coastal regions.”
“We are already seeing the effects of climate change on coastlines through coral bleaching and sea level rise., for example,” says Williams.
Therefore, scientists call for urgent action on climate change. “This implies strict regulation of companies that benefit from polluting activities that put the future of humanity at risk,” the authors conclude.
Reference article: https://www.agenciasinc.es/Noticias/Solo-el-15-5-de-las-regiones-costeras-de-todo-el-mundo-permanecen-intactas