The Marble Beaches of Tuscany

By Nordstrom, Karl F.; Pranzini, Enzo et al. | The Geographical Review, April 2008 | Go to article overview

The Marble Beaches of Tuscany


Nordstrom, Karl F., Pranzini, Enzo, Jackson, Nancy L., Coli, Massimo, The Geographical Review


Nearly all landscapes bear the imprint of humans, and the dichotomy between the ways human and natural landscapes are interpreted and managed is breaking down (Graf 2001; Vogel 2003; Heyd 2005). The likelihood that a landscape will be subject to direct human manipulation is related to economic or social objectives. These objectives may be incompatible with environmental objectives in creating landforms as functional and sustainable natural systems (Sauri-Pujol and Llurdes i Coit 1995; Graf 2001). One of the most vulnerable natural landscapes is a sandy coast, where beaches have great recreational and commercial value and where landforms are easily reshaped or replaced by earth-moving machinery.

Construction and protection of human facilities close to the water on eroding coasts is eliminating many beaches. Concurrently, the intensity of beach use is growing, placing greater demand on remaining beach space and increased economic value on beaches (Beachmed, 2004; Reid and others 2005). The principal solution for managing erosion on coasts developed for tourism is artificial beach nourishment (Hanson and others 2002). The beach may be replaced, but the high cost of obtaining, transporting, and emplacing fill material often leads to use of sediment that differs considerably from native sediment in provenance or size (Pacini, Pranzini, and Sirito 1997; Nordstrom 2000).

Engineering works can be catalysts for reconfiguring the relationship between nature and humans (Kaika 2006), but considerable debate occurs about how nature should be perceived and appreciated (Schein 1997; Crist 2004; Ross 2005). Many beaches nourished with sand are mechanically graded into flat recreation platforms. These artifacts are accepted as proper images of beaches in coastal resorts and replicated throughout the world (Nordstrom 2000). The result is a loss of the regional distinctiveness of beaches and their relationship to the local environment. Ways can be found to recapture or improve the landscape image of a coastal region through careful selection of beach fill (Arba and others 2002). This opportunity is maximized where the fill material is attractive to beach users and associated with the local environmental or cultural heritage.

Most assessments of beach-nourishment operations focus on the rate at which sediment is eroded, the degree to which the new beach functions as a protection structure (Houston 1991; Swart 1991; Pilkey 1992; Kana and Mohan 1998; Browder and Dean 2000), or the significance of nourishment operations to biota (Rakocinski and others 1996; Peterson, Hickerson, and Johnson 2000; Rumbold, Davis, and Perretta 2001; Speybroeck and others 2006). Evaluations are also required of the way fill sediment that differs dramatically from the previous beach sediment alters the identity of coastal landscapes.

The form, composition, and human use of beaches can change based on shifts in economic practice within a given region, but little attention is placed on this aspect of cultural heritage when selecting beach fill materials (Nordstrom, Jackson, and Pranzini 2004). In this study we evaluate the way in which marble gravel, as an industrial by-product, can become a new and seemingly positive symbol of human-altered nature and how the concept of heritage tourism, applied to the human infrastructure at mine sites (Balcar and Pearce 1996; Edwards and Llurdes i Coit 1996; Ruiz-Ballesteros and Hernandez-Ramirez 2007), can be applied to the byproduct of mining as a natural resource. We focus on human-use value of the resulting beaches, although we acknowledge the great positive and negative influence that beach nourishment has on natural values (Milton, Schulman, and Lutz 1997; Peterson, Hickerson, and Johnson 2000; Speybroek and others 2006).

GRAVEL AS BEACH FILL

Guidelines for nourishing beaches recommend use of sediment that is similar to native materials (Nelson 1993; National Research Council 1995; Peterson, Hickerson, and Johnson 2000; Dean 2002), but where gravel is available and inexpensive, it may be used to nourish sandy beaches, creating a different morphology, habitat value, aesthetic appeal, and evolutionary history (Pacini, Pranzini, and Sirito 1997; Arba and others 2002; Nordstrom, Jackson, and Pranzini 2004). …

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