Filling city beaches before summer is a common practice in almost all cities by the sea. Preparation of the coast for the season so that primarily tourists, and then local people, can enjoy the benefits of the Croatian coast, is often done without project planning. Thus, we regularly witness the spontaneous interventions of filling and concreting the coast without thinking about the damage that such interventions can cause to the marine ecosystem.
What are the consequences of filling and concreting beaches for nature?
1. Death of plant and animal species that live by the sea and in the sea.
Coastal land extension and beach filling leads to burial, during which certain marine organisms are left without their natural habitat, while the immobile ones die. Especially if we are talking about construction waste or soil, as it was the case in Makarska, where waste created after the construction of a kindergarten was used for beach filling. It is even more dangerous for the marine ecosystem if the dumped material contains heavy metals, which thus enters the food chain at the end of which is the man. The sea coast is the link between the land and the sea, so anything harmful that happens there, in addition to the marine ecosystem, has an impact on the terrestrial ecosystem as well. The reduction of coastal biodiversity also affects terrestrial animals, for example, birds that feed on fish and other marine organisms.
2. The lungs of the sea are disappearing.
Posidonia oceanica is a marine flowering plant, which is also called the lungs of the sea. One hectare of its meadow produces as much oxygen as 14 hectares of the Amazon forest per day. Its meadows are a habitat for many marine organisms with which it forms a very significant and complex ecosystem. Together with bivalves, snails, and other invertebrates, it filters seawater, thus contributing to the transparency of the sea. By filling up the seabed, it recedes and disappears. Dense meadows of Posidonia stabilize the sediment with their roots, while their leaves reduce the energy of the waves, thus preventing the material from being carried away from the beaches and acting as „natural guardians of the beaches“, which we emphasized as part of the campaign „Become a Posidonia keeper“.
Is beach filling financially worthwhile?
In the absence of larger financial resources for quality projects, beach improvements are usually carried out by cheaper ad hoc beach filling. But due to sea currents and storms that take place in the winter, without a comprehensive construction project, the beaches will disappear and have to be filled in, that is, financed again next year.
If we bury one of the most important supports that hold of the filled material, the Posidonia meadows, with inadequate filling operations, the waves will shred the material and, in synergy with sea currents, carry the material away, if there is no natural barrier. In addition to Posidonia meadows, one of the barriers is also sycamores, because sediment is retained between them. Also, their modification, either in the form of destruction or concreting, causes a change in the natural flow of the sea and the removal of sediment. Often after one season, the beach will have to be “renovated”. In the end, this approach to beach improvements turns out to be more expensive than a well-designed, initially more expensive project that does not require constant beach nourishment.
Any alteration of the coastline must undergo environmental impact assessment procedures in order to choose the most sustainable and environmentally acceptable solution, which is more profitable in the long term.
What can you do?
1. Think about the future.
Now that you know the consequences of beach filling and beach extension on marine ecosystems, do you think we should change the appearance of natural beaches to make them beautiful in the short term?
2. Advocate and choose alternative solutions.
It is possible to expand the beach with minimal impact on the natural balance by installing “seasonal” sunbathing areas that can be removed after the summer season. In addition to artificial ones, there are also natural solutions for expanding the beach, which can be found in the Građevinar magazine. To preserve Posidonia meadows, it is recommended to install environmentally friendly anchoring systems. The Association Sunce has been systematically conducting research on the negative impacts of anchoring for years, monitoring meadows and, based on the data obtained, actively advocates the installation of anchorages as a protection measure. One of the projects in which we are partners is the SASPAS project, as part of which 40 environmentally friendly anchoring systems have been installed in Kornati National Park so far, and the story will continue.
Don’t make decisions about filling and concreting the beach overnight. Every intervention in the environment needs an expert opinion on how potentially dangerous it is for nature and what can be done in a certain case. Beach filling without order and planning leads nowhere.
4. Get informed.
After investigating the type of coast in question and the effects on the sea and the marine environment that can be caused by filling in the location, it is necessary to contact the local and regional self-government unit and the Ministry of Economy and Sustainable Development to see which permits are required and whether it is necessary to carry out an environmental impact assessment procedure for the intervention. It is preferable to plan projects in cooperation with highly skilled people who will ensure optimal solutions for the environment, and thus more satisfied citizens and beach users. As part of the SEAS project, we created a study of the impact of beach extension and replenishment on sea bottom communities under the guidance of expert Dr. sc. Silvija Kipson, which you can read in Croatian language HERE.
5. Activate and register!
If you see a part of the beach that seems to be illegally filled or concreted, report it to the Green Telephone – 072 123456.
Our lawyers Ivana and Hajdi will take calls from the Split-Dalmatia and Dubrovnik-Neretva counties and report them to the competent institutions. If you want to apply, you can send an email to [email protected], [email protected] or [email protected]
Find contacts for your county here: Green Phone Network.
We need to think about future generations and realize that we have to adapt to nature, and not adapt nature to us, and find solutions that will not damage nature and life in it.