A report titled 'National Assessment of Shoreline Change: Historical Shoreline Change along the New England and Mid-Atlantic Coasts', the fifth report of its kind, has recently been issued by the U.S Geological Survey, which has found that up to 68% percent of the beaches around New England and the Mid Atlantic are currently eroding.
A 650 mile sample of the coastline was examined as part of the survey and it was discovered that the average rate of change along the coast was negative 1.6 feet per year. The researchers were able to chart the rate of change using historical records such as maps and aerial photographs and also newer technology like 'light detection and ranging' (lidar). In previous years the erosion of beaches had dropped to 60%, partly as a result of beach conservation and restoration efforts, it is believed.
It was also highlighted that the Mid-Atlantic coast, in particular from Long Island, N.Y, to the Virginia - North Carolina border, was eroding at a higher rate than the beaches of New England. However, a possible reason for this is because the coastlines of the two areas differ greatly, in the Mid-Atlantic the beaches are more sandy and prone to erosion than those of New England which are primarily rock based.
Beaches are effected by of a number of reasons varying from human activity through to changes caused by storms and sea levels and the amount that a beach is prograding or eroding changes from location to location. It is important for geologists to monitor the change in the conditions of coastlines and beaches so that they are able to assess the impact of human activity and make informed decisions. It is also important to have this kind of information available when looking at how the land can be used in the future and also it helps to identify which areas would benefit the most from beach and coastal restoration programs.
There is an increasing need for reports of this nature to be carried out so that geologists are able to keep a close eye on coastal changes, the rise of sea levels and the way in which human activity affects the coastal environments.