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Coastal Erosion on Cape Cod: Some Questions and Answers
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My answers to some of Sarah's questions may seem ambiguous but, in truth, there is much that we don't know. We don't know if the rate of erosion will increase, decrease, or remain the same; we don't know whether, in the future, sea-level change will be up or down; and we don't know whether global warming will cause the sea to rise or fall. It is important that we try to find the answers to these questions and to many other questions so that we can adjust to and plan for the future.

I do not want to belittle the problems erosion causes to coastal towns and to owners of shorefront property. My answers to these questions are biased by my philosophy as a geologist. Someone trained in another discipline would undoubtedly give much different answers. For the towns and shorefront property owners on Cape Cod, erosion results in the loss of valuable land, important shorefront structures, and homes. It can also threaten a very pleasant seaside lifestyle and, even more important, someone's livelihood. However, efforts to prevent these losses to marine erosion must be balanced against the life expectancy of the results and, much more importantly, against the long-term environmental damage these efforts may cause.

Sand is the very life blood of Cape Cod. How then, can we consider erosion, the process that supplies this sand, anything but a benefit to the Cape?

Somewhat similar versions of this article appeared in 1995-96 and 1997 issues of The Cape Naturalist, the journal of the Cape Cod Museum of Natual History.

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