Shoreline changes are of great importance for evaluating the interaction between humans and ecosystems in coastal areas. They serve as a useful metric for assessing the ecological costs of socioeconomic developmental activities along the coast. In this paper, we present an assessment of shoreline changes along the eastern coast of mainland China from ~1990 to 2019 by applying a novel method recently developed by us. This method which we call the Nearest Distance Method (NDM) is used to make a detailed assessment of shorelines delineated from Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) and Operational Land Imager (OLI) images. The results indicate a dramatic decline in natural shorelines that correspond to the rapid increase in the construction of artificial shorelines, driven by China’s economic growth. Of the entire coast of mainland China, the biggest change occurred along the Bohai Sea, where artificial shorelines expanded from 42.4% in ~1990 to 81.5% in 2019. Over this period, this study indicates that China lost > 60% of its biological shorelines, a trend that is especially worrisome because these include areas that were once biologically diverse and extremely rich. As anticipated, shoreline losses were greatest where regions of low economic value had been transformed to areas of higher economic value. Overall, this influence of human activities on shorelines in China is unprecedented. The repercussions of these changes on ecosystems, and the susceptibility of new shoreline developments to population growth and sea-level rise, need to be assessed urgently before additional changes are effected.
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