Each year people all over the world head to the beaches for some fun under the sun.
The beach is one of the most relaxing and popular go-to places for more than half the people in the world.
It’s a place where people can beat the heat and have a fun time with friends and family.
However, as you splash in the clean, sparkling blue waters and relax on the warm, sun-kissed sand, you need to understand that these natural beaches are more than just a source of enjoyment, relaxation, and sandcastles. They are actually very sensitive ecosystems that provide shelter to a variety of plants and animals. Many of these species are endangered, so we need to preserve the natural beauty and habitat of these beaches.
While doing so, it is also vital that you understand how these natural beaches are formed and how most of them have managed to stay in their original form even today.
What Is a Natural Beach?
First off, as the name suggests, a natural beach is one that has been given to us by nature and hasn’t been created by human beings. It is a geological formation that is mainly formed along a body of water or coast.
They are generally characterized by shell fragments, pebbles, rocks, algae, gravel, and sand. All these elements are found within tiny pieces of organic sediment, which is one of the key markers of natural beaches.
These beaches can take as many as thousands of years to evolve fully, and their evolution is primarily furthered by a large body of water that’s constantly moving. As the water moves, it ends up eroding the land or the area of the part of the beach that is located along its edge.
This causes the coral reefs and the rocks to be worn down by moving waves, resulting in further erosion of the land. Ultimately, all the rocks, sediment, and sand are eroded further inland, where they are deposited along the coastline, eventually leading to the formation of a natural beach. But that’s just the crux of it; there are many other factors and processes involved in the formation of a natural beach.
How Is a Natural Beach Formed?
The main player in the formation of a natural beach is water, and the key process involved is called ‘erosion.’
- To begin with, the moving waves of a large water body wear down the coral reefs and rocks that are located way off the shore.
- These waves basically move in a state of suspension as they carry the worn-down material.
- The rocks and coral reefs transform into small particles and pieces of sediment due to the strong forces applied by the moving waves.
- The sediment is transferred to another large water body where they are again carried by the waves in the water in a state of suspension.
- Since the sediment is moving with the water but doesn’t dissolve in it due to being suspended, it becomes highly prone to being eroded by the water.
- This greatly increases the erosive ability of the water, allowing it to further breakdown the particles within the water body.
- Once again, the eroded particles of sediment are carried by the moving waves, eventually being deposited onto the land.
- Consequently, the size of the existing land greatly increases in length and width due to the process of erosion.
- If the land is located near river deltas, it is possible that newly created beach experiences more growth because these rivers end up carrying the eroded particles to the ocean.
- However, before the sediment is transferred to the ocean, it is first deposited along the beach.
- On the other hand, if the land is somewhere near the coral reefs, the process of erosion will be much faster because numerous marine animals near the reefs contribute to the formation of the beach.
- They do so by eating away the algae growing on the coral reefs because that’s a major part of their dietary supplement.
- When they consume the algae, they cause the corals to break off and turn into different sized pieces or particles.
- The smaller ones are washed away by the waves, eventually settling along the length of the beach.
Important Contributing Factors
As mentioned above, the process of erosion and the movement are the two key players involved in the formation of a natural beach. However, there is another very important factor that plays a major role and determines how the beach is formed.
This factor is called the ‘type of wave’ that ends up reaching the coastline.
There are basically two main types of waves: constructive waves and destructive waves.
Destructive waves are those which increase the chances that a natural beach will suffer from serious erosion in the future. This is because they are fast-forming, and they don’t allow the water between the waves to move away at any cost. This leads to an irregular state of sediment suspension in the body of water. As a result of this, the sediment isn’t deposited on the shoreline and remains in the water, preventing it from becoming compact and settling on the land.
Constructive waves, on the other hand, result in compacted sediment by allowing the water to recede between the waves. This results in a firmer, more compact kind of a beach since these waves prevent the sediment and particles from moving too much between the waves.
Once a natural beach is formed, it can also easily recess at a rapid rate, mainly due to natural disasters and calamities such as storms or hurricanes. However, human activity also plays a huge role in beach recession, which may include things like dam projects and urban development.
Therefore, it is very important that we work towards preserving these natural beaches that have formed over a period of so many years in order to conserve nature as much as we can.