What to expect over the next decades from beach real estate developments? The case of Yucatán and Campeche in Mexico.

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President | AxisIMA

You hear more and more about the vulnerability of beaches worldwide. Climate change scientists have forecasted rising sea-levels due to global warming in the last century, which we are already living, tangibly.

An increase at a rate between two to eight millimetres per year will raise the current level from 20 centimetres to 80 centimetres by the end of the century. In turn, devastating effects in terms of coastal erosion are very likely. Seventy per cent of the beaches worldwide already remain in a vulnerable state due to a permanent decrease in beach widths[1].

The causes:

Undoubtedly, melting ice caps and increasing water volume due to the reduction in density of the water mass because of an increase in temperature caused the rise in sea level. Additionally, there are undoubtedly anthropogenic actions, too, which is activities produced or caused by humans.

 

What can we do?

Even though the reduction of beaches and the increase of sea-level requires strategies where humanity, as a whole, has to act in a coordinated way, it is still possible to intervene immediately and locally, project by project, where coastal ecosystems are involved.

 

This response is where the Nadi Group -AxisIMA alliance can act. We work in direct conjunction with developers who possess clear actions that bring results in the short, medium and long-term. An orderly growth of coastal developments that help extend the useful life of beaches, control erosive effects and sustainably contribute to development, is not only possible but also an obligation.

 

In the particular case of Yucatán, it is feasible to think that the natural conditions of the region are ideal for sustainable development in beaches and the vulnerability that affects a large part of the beaches globally are much more manageable.

 

Nature sends a crystal-clear message inYucatan: nature itself is in charge of adapting to human development.


Figure 1. a) September 9, 2014, b)July 7, 2017. Natural behavior of a beach segment that is restored WITHOUT human intervention. Km 20, Progreso Telchac highway, Yucatán Mexico

What do we have to do?

What we can do is quite simple: respect what is key to balancing beach stability: protecting the mangrove, dune systems and not modifying the natural movement of sand.

In other words, let the beaches grow and shrink (breathe) naturally.

 

Ecological disasters appear when we intervene to give “assisted breathing” to the beaches. We do not like beaches to exhale(they are reduced for periods that can sometimes be prolonged) but we do like that they "breathe in" permanently (that they grow without stopping)This is impossible. Figure 1 shows a clear example of beach ecosystem protection through zero-intervention.

 

In Yucatán, while the peninsula's east coast remains a vulnerable system, requiring specific care due to loss of mangrove area and significant distortion to coastal dynamics in recent decades, the peninsula's north and west coast endure as highly stable ecosystems. With these favourable conditions, we only have to shield them from human activities so that they can last for decades.

 

These conditions are:

  1. A smooth continental shelf with slopes of the order of 1: 1000),
  2. Incident waves mostly in one direction (90 per cent comes from the north-east)
  3. Sand permanently in motion with good granulometry (average diameters of three millimetres from the grain) and
  4. Orientation (north, north-west and west) that protects it against the direct path of hurricanes.

 

This shielding will allow real estate developments on the coast to be compatible with nature. However, it will also require great discipline not to "disturb" the rules of nature.

 

Conclusion

We can be confident in engaging with beach ecosystems to make long-term sustainable developments. We have to understand the natural condition of the place and adapt to it. The results of doing it otherwise would turn out to be devastating.

 

 

[1] The State of the World’s Beaches, Scientific Reports, Arjen Luijendijk,et.al, April 2018

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