— Written by Emma Saas
In my previous blog post, I explored how beach species might move from one beach to another, especially as their habitat is being lost. Now, I’d like to focus more on the recovery of sandy beach habitats as a whole. A number of stressors affect these narrow areas, including recreation, armoring, sea level rise, and extreme weather conditions.
Recreational activities such as driving on the sand, and preparation for recreational activities such as beach grooming, can lower the biodiversity of a beach drastically. Human impacts do not end there, unfortunately. Coastal armoring is put in place to protect roads, buildings, and homes. All are worthy of protection, as people need places to live and roads to drive on, however the armoring cuts into upper beach habitats. This reduces the amount of room the animals have to move, and as sea levels rise, the beach is narrowed even further. Essentially, the beach habitat is being squeezed and narrowed. Rising sea levels in conjunction with armoring and other stressors contribute to the loss of the upper beach first, which is where we find beach hoppers.
El Niño winters are an example of an extreme weather condition that can wipe out all the sand, fauna, and flora on a beach. Recovery from this type of event can be slow, but it is possible. With restoration efforts, some beaches could potentially slowly recover from all of these stressors. However, an important step in beach conservation is to reduce the initial impact we have on these habitats as much as possible.