A recent study published in “Conservation Biology” says that only 15.5% of the world’s coastal regions are still ecologically intact. Most coastal areas have been damaged by human activities such as mining, agriculture and fishing.

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Led by researchers at the University of Queensland, the study reviewed satellite data from up to 2013 to examine the extent to which human activities have affected coastlines. The researchers found that even some of the most remote coastal areas were impacted. For instance, the Kimberley region, a remote part of Western Australia, was found to be affected by mining and fishing activity.

The few coastal areas in pristine condition were mainly found in Greenland, Russia, Chile, Canada, Australia and the United States. Island areas, European coasts, and countries such as Vietnam, India and Singapore showed the most coastal degradation.

Researchers also noted that countries with coastal resources were the most affected. For instance, coastal regions containing coral reefs, savannahs or minerals had the highest levels of human pressure.

Pressure on coastal regions stems from the fact that large populations settle close to the coast. Further, most minerals and other resources occur close to coastal areas. According to Brooke Williams, the study’s lead author and a conservation ecologist at the University of Queensland, the world must take action to save the coasts.

“Our paper really advocates for coastal region restoration quite urgently,” Williams said. “That such a low proportion is at the higher spectrum of the intactness scale is alarming. It’s not good news.”

The study used two datasets: the human footprint index and the cumulative human pressure index. The footprint index examined land-based ecosystems, while the cumulative human pressure index examined pressures on marine ecosystems. Researchers mapped the pressures out to 50km on the sides of the shoreline. Their findings suggest that restoration projects are vital to preserving the world’s coasts.

Via The Guardian

Lead image via Pixabay