Coastal regions feature unique characteristics and are therefore important to all manner of life. People live and work along the coast because of the economic opportunities, aesthetics and array of resources available. By the early 21st century, nearly 40% of the U.S. population lived near a coast.
The marshes, estuaries, and natural environments found along the coast also comprise valuable ecosystems. Many forms of wildlife rely on the coastal zone for food, shelter and habitat.
The variety of resources and activities present on the coast requires the balancing of interests and objectives. Coastal ecosystems and resources differ; understanding the valuable aspects of a coast can support effective management.