My favorite activity in the whole world is beach napping.
Towel laid down, a cold beer, and the sound of sand grains grinding together as people crunch past. Just kidding, that part actually drives me insane.
This irritating pet peeve of mine is something I’ve never really contemplated before, until I wrote a paper about tourism’s impact on sandy beaches. Like most people, I knew sand dunes are in trouble and construction is an issue. But I had never thought about the itty bitty critters that reside in the sand.
This is embarrassing to admit, but until recently, I thought the area of sand between the high tide line and the sand dunes was fairly devoid of life.
However, it turns out that all that algae that washes on shore (and the food that we drop) provides a whole host of nutrients for small and large organisms alike.
While researching for my paper, I found myself looking up photos of organisms like sandpaper (pictured left). I realized I rarely see organisms like that when I visit the beach. I rarely see anything, to be frank.
I tend to visit the beach fairly late in the season. That means hundreds or thousand of Godzillas-I uh, mean, tourists- have already trampled the beach before me. That irritating sound that wakes me up from my nap is sand particles grinding together, crushing burrows and organisms under the pressure of giant feet (relatively speaking). To the beach critters, it probably feels a lot like that Godzilla image.
Disregarding my irritation, this can have real effects on the organisms that rely on these tiny invertebrates for food, including birds and fish. Not to mention it sort of dulls the whole experience of visiting the beach, as half the fun is the diversity of organisms that inhabit coastal ecosystems.
Entire economies are built around the beach industry, and as I stated, I’ve dedicated my life to beach napping. But the plight of our tiny victims should be recognized, and we should support efforts to reduce human impacts. Sadly, this often involves blocking off areas of the beach. I will support such measures, yes, even if it means I can’t nap on the most quiet section of the beach.
* Photo By Arnold Paul / edit by Waugsberg – https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1174121
Feature image: By Bandai Namco Entertainment America, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=48775179