Concept, types, origin, conservation and examples

We explain everything about the beaches, how they are formed and which are the most famous. We’ll also tell you why it’s important to keep them.

The sun sets on one of the beaches of the Seychelles islands.The sun sets on one of the beaches of the Seychelles islands.
The shape of a beach depends on how waves, tides and weather affect it.

what is a beach

A beach is a geographical coincidence, that is, one of the forms that the terrestrial terrain assumes, the It consists of a large amount of rock sediments (sand, gravel, pebbles, etc.) or of biological origin (shells, remains, etc.) which are deposited on the slope of the sea shore or a lake.

The specific shape of a beach depends on how the waves, tides and local climate affect its materials The action of the elements shapes the slope and determines the type of sediment found. There are very steep beaches where significant depths are quickly reached, and others, on the other hand, are very shallow, extending for tens of meters with shallow depths.

From a biological point of view, the beaches They form an important part of the coastal ecosystem as they are a point of contact between marine and terrestrial species., and often host their own fauna and flora, despite being a dynamic and ever-changing environment. Various species of crustaceans and shellfish inhabit the sand or rocks, while numerous birds, mammals and even reptiles lead an amphibious life between land and water.

About a third of the world’s coasts are occupied by sandy beaches, which play an important role in recreation and fishing, as well as in other cultural and economic activities of the people. For this reason, they are also an environment heavily influenced by human presence, especially pollution, although there are still pristine or wild beaches that have not yet been discovered or inhabited by humans.

It can help you: animals of the coast

How are beaches formed?

A chart shows the difference between the tides.A chart shows the difference between the tides.
The intermediate area between low and high tide is called Estran.

The geological formation of the beaches Occurs when there is more material on the Earth’s surface than waves can displace and ocean currents and are therefore deposited in the interface between water and land. This results in two clearly defined areas of each beach:

  • The lower beach or beachwhich is completely submerged by water and whose normally gentle slope leads to the oceanic plane.
  • The high beach or upper partwhich is above sea level and forms a coast with variable slopes, generally steeper and with steps.

In addition, the intermediate region between the two, between the levels of high water (High Tide) and low tide (Ebbe), is known as will be. In this region, the waves push the sediments outwards and the surf pulls them inwards again, in a continuous shift that is important for sand formation.

The formation of beach sediments is due to erosion and the action of the elements on the rocky materials of the coast, or the accumulation of waste of organic origin like clams. In any case, these sediments accumulate and are eroded by the continuous force of the water, creating sands of varying thickness and varying color, texture, and texture, depending on their nature.

types of beaches

In Lanzarote, the sand on the beach is black.In Lanzarote, the sand on the beach is black.
The color of the beaches depends on the sediments that make up the sand.

From a geological point of view, there are three types of beaches:

  • closed beaches, formed as streaks of sediment following a cliff and are perpendicular to the mean waves. They are usually very unstable beaches where the contribution of sediment is continuous.
  • free beachesformed at the end of a plain where sediment accumulates in the sea or rivers, generally due to the slowing of the flow or the action of various geographical coastal accidents.
  • long coastal beachesformed miles parallel to the geography of the coast, forming long but narrow streaks of sediment of distinctive appearance.

On the other hand, from the point of view of the type of sediments that compose them, we can distinguish the following types of beaches:

  • White sandy beaches, composed mainly of quartz, limestone, iron, gypsum and feldspar sediments. They predominate in intertropical basins such as the Mediterranean.
  • shell beaches, also whitish in appearance, are composed primarily of calcium carbonate, which is extracted from seashells, coral, and bones of sea creatures, and is ground down by exposure to the elements. They predominate in the tropical region, such as in the Caribbean.
  • black sand beaches, also called volcanic beaches, consist of basalt and obsidian sediments. They predominate in regions of great geological activity, such as the Canary Islands or the Galapagos Islands.
  • coral beaches, which are endowed with pink sand, get their sediments from the erosion of coral debris rich in calcium carbonate. They tend to be abundant in regions with important coral reefs, such as the Bahamas or Bermuda.
  • red sandy beachescomposed of sediments derived from oxidized volcanic rock after long exposure to air, as occurs at Kokkini Beach in Santorini.
  • green sandy beaches, composed of sediments rich in the mineral olivine that have been separated from the rest of the volcanic material by erosion. The best example of this rare type of beach is Papakolea Beach in Hawaii.

Importance of beach conservation

The destruction and pollution of the beaches constitutes an ecological and economic tragedy on a large scale. On the one hand, it limits or preventing the possibility of its recreational enjoyment or its use as a source of food for local communities, which contributes to the economic impoverishment of the people. Contaminated beaches are also a source of disease for their visitors and for those who make a living from fishing.

From an ecological point of view, the pollution of the beaches threatens marine ecosystems. The presence of waste materials harms local species and reduces biodiversity, which for example promotes the uncontrolled growth of algae, which leads to oxygen deprivation of the water (as the algae compete with each other, die and decompose en masse) and the death of other species.

The most famous beaches in the world

The sand on Elafonissi beach is pink.The sand on Elafonissi beach is pink.
Elafonisi beach in Crete is famous for the color of its sand and crystal clear water.

Among the most famous beaches in the world are the following:

  • Sarakiniko beach in Milos, Greece.
  • Morrocoy National Park in Falcon, Venezuela.
  • Playa del Carmen, on the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
  • San Blas Beach in Panama.
  • Elafonisi Beach, Crete, Greece.
  • Cathedral Cove in New Zealand.
  • Baia do Sancho in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil.
  • Hidden Beach, in Islas Marietas, Mexico.
  • Gardner Bay, in the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador.
  • Reynisfjara in Iceland.
  • Koh Similan, Thailand.
  • Key Largo, in Cuba.
  • Los Roques in Venezuela.
  • Ke’e Beach, Hawaii.
  • La Digue, Seychelles.
  • Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

Continue with: Archipelago


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