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Coastlines| Coastlines
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Coastlines| Coastlines

A building in Balnerio Cambori, Brazil

New research shows that only 15.5% percent of the world’s coast regions are ecologically intact. It is urgent to take conservation measures to preserve what remains and to restore sites that have been damaged.

The StudyResearchers at the University of Queensland led the study that used satellite data to assess the extent to which human activity has encroached upon coastlines around the world.

It found that only a few coastlines were left intact up until 2013, the most recent year available. Even remote areas, such as the Kimberley Region in Western Australia, were affected by mining and fishing.

The research was published in Conservation Biology, a scientific journal. It builds on previous work that looked at human activities in terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

The few areas of coast left unaffected by pressures like fishing, agriculture and urban development were mostly found in Canada. Australia was next, followed by Russia and Greenland.

In many countries, including India, Vietnam, and Singapore, there were very few intact areas and high levels of degrading.

The highest levels of pressure were found in coastal areas containing coral reefs, savannah, and seagrasses.

Brooke Williams, the study’s principal author and a conservation ecologist at the University of Queensland, said that the pressures on coastal ecosystems could come in many forms, and occur both on land as well as at sea.

She said that the paper advocates for urgent restoration of the coastal region.

Alarmingly, such a low percentage is on the higher spectrum of intactness. It’s not good news.

She stated that the situation would not have improved since 2013.

A building in Balnerio Cambori, Brazil
Researchers believe that because the majority of the world’s population lives near coastal areas, pressures on these ecosystems can take many forms. Photograph: Leonardo Felippi

The coast AnalyseIt was compiled using two datasets: the human footprint, which examined land-based ecosystems, and the cumulative person pressure index, which examined pressures in the marine environment.

The shoreline was then mapped with pressures to 50km.

Williams stated that areas that are still relatively intact are often more remote, making it more difficult for people to access them.

The Great Australian Bight in Australia remained relatively undeveloped, although Williams noted that it has faced development threats in recent times.

James Watson, University of Queensland co-author, stated that remoteness does not guarantee that coastlines will remain intact. He pointed out that mining and fishing are two of the industries that cause environmental decline in these areas.

He stated that he expected that northern Australia, Namibia, and Madagascar would all maintain large areas of intact coastline. However, it has not been consistent.

It’s shocking to me how widespread fishing is. It’s everywhere. It’s impossible to avoid it, he stated.

These remote locations are where you can see the fishing impacts.

According to the researchers protecting the coastlines of the world will require a range if measures, including legislation to protect unaffected areas and restoration work to improve areas that have been damaged.

Watson stated that you need to increase the areas that are protected.

We need to set aside more time for restoration in areas that are severely degraded. Not just for species, but also for water and carbon.

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