Two-thirds of Catalan beaches have shrunk since 1956

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Catalan beaches

Around 65% of Catalan beaches have lost ground to the sea in the last seven decades. This phenomenon is especially noticeable in the Baix and Alt Empordà regions.

This is evident from a recent study by the Catalan Cartographic and Geological Institute (ICGC). The study collected data from 1956 to 2019 and shows that of the 489 beaches for which data is available, 319 have experienced regression. This means that these beaches have receded and lost land to the sea. On the other hand, there are 170 beaches that have gained ground on the sea in the same period.

Specific situations in local regions

In the Baix Empordà, with coastal municipalities such as Begur, Palafrugell and Platja d’Aro, 70.7% of the 87 beaches surveyed have lost ground. Similar trends are observed in the Alt Empordà, where places such as Cadaqués, Roses and Castelló d’Empúries are located. Here 68% of the beaches are in regression. In the northern region of Catalonia, La Selva, and other areas such as Baix Camp and Tarragonès, regressive beaches also predominate.

Contrasting trends

Remarkably, the beaches in the urban area of Barcelona show the opposite trend. The majority of beaches in 2019 were longer than in 1956. This can be seen in regions such as Maresme, Barcelonès and Baix Llobregat, where most beaches have gained ground.

Cogesa Expats

Geological changes

The ICGC has also noted that in the Ebro Delta, the dynamics of the coastline have changed due to the decrease in sediment supply from the Ebro River. That decrease would be caused by the construction of dams. This change has a significant impact on coastal morphology.

Coastline growth due to human intervention

Between 1956 and 2019, the Catalan coastline grew from 740 to 911 kilometers. This is mainly the result of the construction of harbours, dikes and piers. However, development of the coastline, especially within the first 100 meters of the beach, has greatly reduced the natural adaptability of the beaches to waves.

Also read: Shrinking beaches threaten chiringuitos in Barcelona

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