Video | Business Headlines | Internet | Science | Scientific Ethics | Technology | Search

 


Beaches buffer our shores from Mother Nature’s might

Summer Series – Week 3. Beaches buffer our shores from Mother Nature’s might

Most Kiwis appreciate the recreational opportunities our beaches offer – whether for beachcombing, surfing, walking the dog, bird-watching, swimming or simply snoozing in the sun. But did you know that beaches are also Nature’s way of buffering and protecting seafront real estate and infrastructure, such as parks and roads, against high winds and waves during powerful storms or rough seas?

If you live at the beach or visit it regularly, you will have seen how sand on the beach goes through cycles of erosion and accretion (build up).

The erosion process can be dramatic – taking place when big steep seas, combined with high tides, cause waves to pound the shoreline. Big surges of water rush up the beach with considerable force, scarping the dune face.

However, the beach fights back by allowing a proportion of the uprush to percolate into the sediments. As a result, the backrush has less power than the uprush, protecting the beach from erosion.

Gravel beaches are particularly good at protecting themselves from erosion, says NIWA marine geologist and coastal oceanographer Dr Terry Hume, “because they are very permeable”.

“With a lot of the uprush water lost into the gravel, the backrush has little power to erode the beach face. Furthermore, the powerful uprush carries with it gravel that gets tossed up by the waves to build up a gravel ridge above high-tide level. This ridge prevents waves tipping over the ridge, creating further erosion.”

Sand stripped from the beach and dunes during storms is carried out to sea by the backwash and undertow to the shallow nearshore, where it is deposited in banks. Surfers know this well as waves peeling over these banks in shallow water provide excellent surfing.

Dr Hume, a keen surfer himself, says the formation of these banks is the beach fighting back.

“When waves break on the nearshore banks they absorb wave energy so that the waves have less power when they arrive at the beach, buffering it from further erosion.”

Accretion of sand takes place during calmer periods of long, low sea swell and is very gradual. The banks slowly migrate to the shore where they weld onto the beach.

Sand that dries out at low tide is picked up by the wind and blown into the dunes where is it is stabilised by dune-binding plants such as spinifex and pingao. The build-up of this buffer of sand in the beach and dunes completes the erosion/accretion cycle. However, the intensity of the next storm will determine whether the slow fight back was enough to buffer against the next bout of erosion.

“Understanding how beaches buffer themselves against storms has taught us how to fight like Nature,” says Dr Hume.

“Coastal management authorities are now using the natural buffering processes of beaches in their own approach to beach erosion control and preservation. For example, beach nourishment (the process where sand lost by erosion is replaced by sand from another source by mechanical means) is often now used instead of hard structures such as sea walls, which cause waves to scour the beach in front. Dune conservation, by fencing and planting, is also encouraged as a means to build up the buffer of sand.”


Dr Terry Hume is a marine geologist and coastal oceanographer at NIWA’s Hamilton office. His research interests focus on large-scale coastal processes, including the natural transport and storage of sand, coastal hazards, and beach erosion; and developing and applying beach and estuary classification for research and management purposes. He holds an Honorary Associate Professorship at the University of Auckland and an Honorary Lectureship at the University of Waikato. He’s also a keen surfer.


Fast facts about sand:

Origins: Rock or shell

Time to form: Decades (soft shell, such as cockles and horse mussels) to millennia (hard rock, such as feldspar and quartz).

Distance travelled: Hundreds of kilometres over millennia. Longest journey in New Zealand is about 400km (Mt Taranaki to North Cape).

Uses in New Zealand:

• sand paper (e.g., from garnet sands like those at Hunts Beach and Bruce Bay, Westland)
• steel industry (e.g., Taharoa ironsand, ilmenite)
• glass (e.g., Parengarenga quartz sand, Northland)
• concrete (Pakiri Beach, Kaipara Harbour)
• filler under roads, pavements, drains and bowling greens.
Sand trivia:

• To qualify as sand, grains must be between 0.06mm and 2mm in diameter.
• 1200oC is the temperature needed to convert quartz sand to glass.
• Quicksand is sand that has been so saturated with water that the friction between sand particles is reduced and they can no longer support weight.
• Sand can produce high- or low-frequency sounds under certain conditions – nobody is really sure how. This strange phenomenon occurs at some New Zealand beaches – such as Waihi Beach (Bay of Plenty) when conditions are right.

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Business Headlines | Sci-Tech Headlines

 

Prefu Roundup: Forecasts Revised, Surplus Intact

The National government heads into the election with its Budget surplus target broadly intact, delivering a set of economic and fiscal forecasts marginally revised from May to reflect weaker commodity prices and a lower tax take. More>>

ALSO:

Convention Centre: Major New SkyCity Hotel And Laneway For Auckland

Today SKYCITY Entertainment Group Limited revealed plans to build a new hotel and pedestrian laneway of bars, restaurants and boutique shopping on land it owns in the Nelson and Hobson Streets block, expanding the SKYCITY Entertainment Precinct. More>>

ALSO:

Igniting The Spark: Bringing The Digital Enabler To Life

Changing a name is, relatively speaking, the easy part of a re-invention. Changing a culture, getting all the ducks in a row, turning yourself inside-out to become customer-inspired is a much bigger challenge. More>>

ALSO:

Ebola And NZ: Targeted Screening At Airport But Risk Low

The risk of any cases of Ebola in New Zealand remains very low, but health and border authorities are well prepared... anyone arriving in New Zealand who in the last three weeks has visited countries affected will be screened for symptoms of the disease. More>>

ALSO:

Scoop Business: Brewer Seeking Crowd-Funding Cancels Shareholders’ Dividends

Shareholders in Renaissance Brewing company, the first business to seek equity through crowd-funding in New Zealand, have cancelled their claim on $147,000 of accumulated earnings “to make Renaissance a more attractive investment opportunity.” More>>

ALSO:

It's Spark Now:
Why Telecom Wanted To Change

New Zealand led the world when Chorus demerged from Telecom. It gave us a telecommunications industry structure where the network is completely separated from the products and services it delivers. The changes brought about a new market dynamic and it dramatically changed Telecom’s role. More>>

ALSO:

Glass Half Empty: Dairy Prices Fall To Lowest Since 2012

Dairy product prices slumped to the lowest level since October 2012 in the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction, paced by whole milk powder and cheddar. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 
 
Computer Power Plus

Standards New Zealand

Standards New Zealand
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Sci-Tech
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news