How to Maintain the Environmental Health of Seaside Cities
by Jane Marsh
Seaside cities are host to incredible ecosystems and industries, so it’s essential to protect them. Since the effects of climate change impact them significantly, they must implement special long-term solutions to protect their residents. Maintaining the health of their environments should be a priority since it benefits both human and marine life.
Why Do Seaside Cities Need Environmental Protection?
Around 600 million people live in coastal areas less than 33 feet above sea level. Without a proper response to climate change, they could lose up to seven feet by 2050. Critical ocean habitats and industries surround seaside cities, so protecting them is wise. Their environmental health relies on preventative action and continued maintenance.
Coasts also positively impact mental and emotional health, but climate change risks dampening those effects. One study found that people who go to the beach at low tide are 30% more likely to find their visit mentally restorative. While additional factors influenced their overall emotional state, there was a clear connection between the climate and how they perceived the coast.
Over time, climate change will increase temperatures, lower air quality, and raise the sea level. Cities along coastlines are some of the main areas affected because of their proximity to the ocean.
Maintaining the Environmental Health of Seaside Cities
While addressing climate change is the best long-term solution, it’s a broad issue with many factors. In the short term, the best course of action is to focus on specific, fixable coastal issues.
1. Build Protective Structures
Man-made installations can protect shorelines, prevent flooding, or clean waterways. While they come in many forms, barriers against erosion are some of the more common structures. Coasts erode naturally over time because of weather and waves — however, having over 80,000 acres wash away every year is not sustainable.
Erosion control is necessary to protect seaside cities. Even though the process is natural, rising sea levels caused by climate change may speed up the process. It threatens buildings near the shoreline and tourist attractions that help support local economies.
Some cities lay down large rocks to prevent waves from washing land away, but there are also manufactured tools capable of serving multiple purposes. For example, geotubes are essential for shoreline protection because they can filter and store the excess sediment in water and stack along shorelines to make a protective wall. Such structures help protect the environmental health of cities by protecting buildings and land from washing into the ocean.
2. Conserve Ocean Habitats
Ocean habitats support human industries and the environment, so it’s crucial to maintain their health. The tourism and aquaculture sectors rely on fish to provide food and entertainment. In addition, coastal marine life can filter pollutants from the water.
Coral conservation is critical because it’s essential to human and marine life. It provides shelter for fish and protection from erosion. Protecting coral helps maintain the environmental health of cities relying on fishing and tourism. Although climate change harms a majority of corals, there are a few varieties that can withstand increased temperatures and stress.
Nicknamed “super corals” by researchers, these species could restore damaged reefs and help repopulate local marine life. While their increased resilience doesn’t fully protect them, they survive much more often than other types in the same reef.
Instead of simply monitoring marine life, stepping in and providing aid might be best. Coral reef restoration, commercial fishing limitations, and regulated tourism can go a long way in conserving the natural protective benefits of ocean habitats.
3. Update Zoning Laws
Since erosion washes away the shoreline naturally over time, homes or businesses too close to the edge are at risk of structural damage or destruction. Updated zoning laws may be the solution to such issues. Since zoning laws control where construction is allowed, they could enforce restrictions on building close to the shoreline.
It might be wise for officials to consider changing the local laws to reflect the effect of climate change as the sea level rises and the amount of space between buildings and the ocean shrinks.
4. Switch to Clean Energy
Seaside cities can use all their water as a renewable energy source. Clean energy is much better for the environment than fossil fuels, so switching could help maintain the health of the climate and environment.
In the U.S., hydropower is one of the top renewable energy sources because of its efficiency. It combines the power of wind turbines with underwater turbines to maximize the amount of power produced. On top of benefitting the local ecosystem and the climate, they can save money and make a necessary resource. With the proper placement and maintenance, coastal cities could see a real positive change in their environment and possibly even their local economy.
5. Identify At-Risk Areas
Some areas along the coast are more prone to environmental health risks than others. For example, the areas near oil rigs are more at risk for oil spills, while tourist-heavy areas are more at risk for physical environmental damage. Determining which places need special attention is necessary to understand how to best protect them.
The Office of Response and Restoration took such steps and created over 3,300 maps ranking the sensitivity of coasts to spills. Oil or chemicals frequently pollute coastal areas, risking the health of humans and sea life. Continuous monitoring helps identify problem areas so residents and officials can be more prepared to respond appropriately to incidents.
6. Collaborate With Nearby Cities
While a city’s environmental health may benefit by implementing any of these solutions, the collaboration of multiple cities along the coast is much more beneficial. Each action they take affects the other. For example, if one builds a barrier against flooding and another doesn’t, they’re both at risk for floods because damage along the shoreline isn’t isolated. Seaside cities are much more likely to see benefits if they work together.
Why Longterm Solutions Are Necessary
Maintaining the environmental health of seaside cities is vital because they provide unique and necessary resources. In addition, their local ecosystems are essential for the general balance of the environment. They need long-term solutions to protect themselves against the effects of climate change.
The Environmental Health of Seaside Cities Is Important
Climate change strongly affects cities along the coast, so providing them with specialized solutions is only fair. Maintaining their ecosystems can make humans happier and protect essential marine life. When cities collaborate to conserve ocean habitats, update local laws and build protective structures, they may be able to balance the health of their environment with the impact of climate change.
Article by Jane Marsh
Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of