Coastal erosion is the process by which local sea levels rise, strong wave action, and coastal flooding wear down or carry away rocks, soils, and/or sands along the coast. All coastlines are affected by storms and other natural events that cause erosion; the combination of storm surge at high tide with additional effects from strong waves—conditions commonly associated with landfalling tropical storms—creates the most damaging conditions. Severe erosion leads to flooding, building loss, and road damage. As the wetlands of the Gulf Coast grow increasingly submerged, shorefront homes, hotels and infrastructure are left vulnerable to destruction.
The economic problems caused by Gulf Coast erosion are enmeshed with threats to its ecosystem. If nothing is done to stop the land loss that is occurring daily, the coastline will lose natural barriers to hurricanes, animal habitats and sanctuaries, and the hunting and fishing industry will be affected. To fight erosion, coastal communities often dredge, or pull in sand from offshore to fill in the beaches, and protect and restore sand dunes, which are mounds of sand that separate the lower beach from higher ground.