Environmental Impacts of Beach Vacations

Written by on September 10, 2014 in Coral Reefs, Other News

As summer winds down, trips to the beach will be fewer and farther between. Let’s take a look at some of the impacts that those trips have had on the beach and marine life all season long.

Scuba Diving & Coral Reefs

Koh Tao, Thailand. Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/victoriapeckham/3863693816/">victoriapeckham</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/">cc</a>.

Koh Tao, Thailand. Photo credit: victoriapeckham via photopin cc.

While tourism can be great for local economies, it doesn’t come without a cost. Many small fisheries off the island of Koh Tao, Thailand have declined in favor of tourism — more than 300,000 divers visit the vibrant coral reefs off the coast. This is great for the more than 50 dive operators that work on the island, but it’s turning out to be not-so-great for the coral reefs.

Researchers surveyed 10,000 corals at 10 sites around Koh Tao. Of those, half were frequently visited by divers and half were not. The researchers found that 79 percent of corals at the infrequently visited sites were healthy, while only 45 percent of coral at the popular sites were disease- or damage-free. This doesn’t mean that tourism is a bad thing, but it highlights the importance of responsible diving and eco-friendly tourism.


Shells on a beach.

Shells on a beach. Photo credit: lotopspin via photopin cc.

A study published earlier this year revealed that an increase in tourism on the Mediterranean coast of Spain correlated with a major decrease in mollusk shells — 70 percent during the main tourism season in July and August, and 60 percent in other months. Why is this bad? Well, shells serve many functions in natural ecosystems, ranging from beach stabilization to housing marine organisms like algae and sponges.

“It is important that we continue to investigate the more subtle aspects of tourism-related activities and their impact on shoreline habitats,” explained the study’s lead author Michal Kowalewski, Thompson Chair of Invertebrate Paleontology at the Florida Museum.

Sun bathing

What impact do beach vacations have on the marine environment? Photo credit: <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/environmentblog/7843688616/">EnvironmentBlog</a> via <a href="http://photopin.com">photopin</a> <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">cc</a>.

What impact do beach vacations have on the marine environment? Photo credit: EnvironmentBlog via photopin cc.

Don’t worry, nobody is saying “don’t wear sunscreen” because that would be terrible advice. But, researchers are saying we (or the cosmetics industry) need to be careful about the kind of sunscreen we use.

A new study reveals that when certain ingredients in sunblock wash off your body and into the water, they can become toxic to phytoplankton, the tiny organisms that form the basis of the marine food web.

Titanium dioxide and zinc oxide nanoparticles, common ingredients in sunblock, can react with ultraviolet light from the sun and create new compounds, like hydrogen peroxide, which can be toxic to phytoplankton.

The report argues the need for cooperation between the cosmetics industry and scientists in order to create a balance between human health and the health of the environment.

Copyright © 2014 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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