Our coasts are precious resources, home to an abundance of wildlife and popular destinations for rest and relaxation. However, with climate change, human involvement, and normal natural processes, our coastlines are in danger of eroding. When natural barriers such as mangrove trees get removed from coasts due to storms or development, the water begins to dissolve the coastline, dragging away sand and wearing down the limestone.
There are, however, ways to control this process. Coir is a natural, eco-friendly material that can slow coastal erosion and minimize damage. As a byproduct of coconut trees, coir is one of our best resources for keeping coastlines safe from erosion. Naturally produced and ecologically safe, this product is revolutionizing how we deal with coastal erosion. Here we’ll describe how to prevent coastal erosion and how coir can help.
What Is Coastal Erosion?
Simply put, coastal erosion is the act of a water source degrading a nearby coastline. Each coastline is different, ranging from rocky outcroppings to smooth expanses of sand. Regardless of the geological makeup, erosion affects each of the various ecosystems similarly.
Many places around the world are experiencing incredible amounts of coastal erosion. Louisiana is widely regarded as the main problem area in the United States for coastal erosion, losing as much as 50 feet of beach per year. According to Stephen Leatherman of the National Healthy Beaches Campaign, upward of 80 to 90% of the country’s coasts are experiencing erosion, many at unprecedented rates.
What Causes Coastal Erosion?
Coastal erosion has many causes. Often, erosion is a one-way process, with damage being nearly impossible to counteract once it has occurred. Erosion can happen naturally, as it has been for thousands of years: Wonders like the Grand Canyon, for instance, are testaments to the power of water eating away at rock.
Most often, natural erosion is a slow process. However, with the increasingly volatile weather and rising sea levels, natural erosion has sped up significantly. According to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit, the federal government spends approximately $150 million each year on beach nourishment and other erosion prevention measures.
Natural phenomena aren’t the only reasons our coasts are eroding more rapidly. Human intervention is another major player in coastal erosion. Beachfront properties have always been desirable, and in the rush to create more, natural barriers such as mangrove forests have been removed. Without these barriers, the erosion process speeds up significantly.
Other human-created issues include storm barriers and cement blockades. While these can help reduce the damage from storm surges, the reflected wave energy can lead to accelerated erosion as soil and rock get sucked away from the coastline and sent out to sea.
To best preserve our coasts, we must explore alternative methods for reducing erosion and protect our climate by reducing harmful practices.
What Is Coir?
Pronounced COY-er, coir is one of the best natural solutions for erosion. Derived from coconut fibers, coir is eco-friendly to harvest and manufacture. It comes from the inner husks of a coconut shell and is a fibrous, coarse material with multiple unique properties. It’s rot-resistant, extremely strong, flexible, and buoyant.
The most common use of coir, and where you’ve probably seen it before, is in household products such as doormats. It’s also commonly used as a lining for hanging baskets because it easily allows for soil drainage without leading to rot. Coir is also used as an eco-friendly stuffing, as sack material, and as gardening material.
Coir isn’t the easiest product to produce, although it doesn’t take excessive processing or require harmful chemicals like many synthetic products do. The process begins with soaking the coconuts’ outer husks until the fibers can be pried apart and separated. Often, manufacturers separate the fibers by color and size. This grading process makes it easier to designate batches for particular uses. The dark brown coir, which comes from mature coconuts, is what people use most often for erosion prevention, as it’s one of the hardiest grades available.
Once it’s been processed and graded, coir gets bound together into whatever form it’ll be used for, including logs, wattles, bricks, and mats.
How Does Coir Prevent Coastal Erosion?
Coir is a particularly effective material for helping prevent coastal erosion, especially for beaches that are in danger of washing away or have been nourished with new deposits of sand recently.
Coir used to control coastal beach erosion in populated areas is typically bound into logs. These are placed as breakwaters or are set beneath sand dunes. They provide an excellent substrate for roots to take hold of, allowing for protective plants such as sea oats to take root and keep the sand in place. This helps prevent further erosion while also encouraging the return of native plants to beach areas where they had once been.
Coir mats can help prevent erosion in areas where aesthetics are less of a concern. These mats are placed along areas that are in danger of eroding and help prevent the water from dragging the soil or sand away. Logs and wattles are also used for this purpose and are typically placed in rows to provide additional support along the coastline.
Thanks to coir’s rot-resistant properties, these measures can stay in place for a long time, outliving many synthetic products. In addition, they don’t release chemicals or damaging byproducts into the water or ground where they’re placed, another attractive feature of these coastal-erosion-prevention products.
In instances in which a sea wall must be built, either to protect the real estate nearby or because the area is too far gone for more natural erosion prevention, coir can provide an effective fabric underlay and is quickly becoming a popular choice among builders.
Coir is a practical choice for coastal erosion prevention thanks to its eco-friendly nature and efficacy. Whether used on a riverside or beachfront property, coir has the potential to become the most widely used geotextile in the industry.