A new study detailing the particular make-up of the sand granules found on Maltese beaches has presented evidence that indicates waters around the coastline are warming up.
The research paper by geologist Peter Gatt, entitled ‘Embayment morphometrics, granulometry and carbonate mineralogy of sandy beaches in the Maltese islands’, investigates where sand particles come from, their size and what kind of bays host Malta’s carbonate sandy beaches. The results were published in the peer-reviewed journal Marine Geology.
Samples from the study were taken in 14 of the 39 main beaches, namely; Ramla Bay in Gozo, Blue Lagoon, St George’s Bay, Rinella, Marsascala Bay, Armier, Paradise Bay, Mellieħa Bay, St Paul’s Bay, Għajn Tuffieħa, Ġnejna Bay, Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, St Thomas Bay and Pretty Bay.
“With the spectre of devastating climate change sea-level rise approaching, sandy beaches, which mark the soft boundary between the land and sea, will be the first casualties,” Gatt said.
With the spectre of devastating climate change sea-level rise approaching, sandy beaches, which mark the soft boundary between the land and sea, will be the first casualties
His study finds that the single-celled organisms fora-minifera amphistegina is also contributing to sand particles in the country, despite typically being in the warmer waters of Libya and the Middle East.
Gatt says the find reflects the general warming of the Mediterranean Sea.
In analysing the particles collected from local beaches, Gatt found that these differ from other carbonate beaches that are traced from the Red Sea to the Atlantic Ocean.
About a third of the world’s coastline is classified as either carbonate, dominated by calcium carbonate or clastic, usually dominated by quartz.
The sand found in Malta’s beaches was primarily originated from two sources: the sand formed by the erosion of the limestone shoreface and the biogenic sand produced by marine organisms that produce a shell which is later broken up to sand particles.
Less than 20 per cent of sand from our beaches comes from biogenic sources, the study found, which Gatt said is far less than that of other sandy beaches around the world.
“This unusual situation is linked to the clay from the Blue Clay Formation that is found along the coast and under large areas covered by marine sand,” he said.
“Malta’s beaches are small and bays remain underfilled with sand, very often requiring beach nourishment if the sea level continues to rise.”
“Sandy beaches are vital for summer tourism and recreational activities,” Gatt said.
“If we are to enjoy them, we need to look into how they are adapting to climate change.”
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