The Degradation of Coastal Waters

As highlighted in Estuarine Ecohydrology, throughout the world estuaries have experienced environmental degradation and present proposed remedial measures based on engineering and technological fixes have been unable to restore the ecological processes of a healthy, robust estuary, and, as such, will not reinstate the full beneficial functions of the estuary ecosystem.

This story of degradation is repeated worldwide also for coastal zones. The problem is more insidious, and harder to address, because historically coastal zones were seen as having essentially infinite capacity to dilute waste from human activities and because the fisheries resources were essentially free for all. Yet, just like estuaries, coastal waters are also suffering from increasing eutrophication, increasing turbidity, harmful algae blooms, fisheries collapse, and an increasing loss of biodiversity. At the same time these waters are increasingly polluted and impacted by hydrocarbons from low-level, chronic oil spills as well as occasional and often catastrophic oil spills. Some of these coastal waters are also showing signs of impacts by climate change.

All these effects have negative socioeconomic impacts through the loss of income and employment for coastal communities. They suggest that if these issues are not addressed, coastal waters will increasingly be degraded and ultimately may suffer the fate of many estuaries worldwide that have become essentially little more than drains for wastes and channels for navigation (see Estuarine Ecohydrology). This scenario runs contrary to the wishes of the human population that, with increasing wealth, demands a high quality of life.

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