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If you were to guess what feature South Florida was desperately lacking, sand would probably not be the first thing that comes to mind. Yet, the coastline is suffering from a shortage due to storm erosion, rising sea levels, and man-made jetties. As The New York Times reports, Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties have all been dredging off shore for years in order to replenish their beaches. Now engineers are finding that there is nothing left to source.

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While the beaches are important recreation areas and tourist attractions, their most important function lies in how they buffer inland ecosystems and communities from storms. Officially, Miami-Dade country runs out of sand next month.

“These beaches, people think they are recreational, but they are storm damage reduction,” Jason Harrah, head of the Army Corps Miami-Dade beach restoration told the New York Times. “They are meant to sacrifice themselves for the loss of property or life. In the event we have that kind of storm, we wouldn’t have the means to replenish them.”

To counter the disappearance of the sand, proposals range from crushing recycled glass bottles or purchasing silicate from mines in Central Florida and areas of the Caribbean.

Via The Huffington Post

Images via Wikicommons user Juliancolton and Flickr user Heather 0714.