Managing sandy beach ecosystems is difficult because of their dynamic nature. How should a beach manager mark off a section of the beach for lifeguard vehicle traffic when the sand dwelling creatures move throughout the entire width of the beach? Can beaches be maintained so they are attractive to visitors and ecologically healthy? These are complex issues, but there are a number of practices that can balance competing interests and maximize benefits to beach ecosystems and beach-dependent industries alike.
Stop or minimize beach grooming
Beach grooming removes wrack, which supports a whole community of beach critters. By avoiding grooming, managers can help maintain the diversity and abundance of life on the beach. If avoidance isn’t possible, alternating groomed and ungroomed stretches of beach can still benefit the beach ecosystem. Alternatively, leaving the wrack line that forms at high tide provides habitat for shorebird prey and strengthens the beach food web. If grooming is done only shoreward of the wrack line, this allows a natural beach face to develop and reduces erosion from waves.
Groom beaches by hand
Selectively remove trash and other litter from the beach to improve the aesthetics of the beach. Allow wrack to remain.
Minimize Driving on the Beach
Driving on the beach can crush the delicate critters that live in the sand. Managers can minimize driving on the beach by locating lifeguard towers closer to parking lots or by making more efficient trips.
Establish Zones for Driving
When lifeguards and other professionals must drive on beaches, they should avoid parts of the beach where the most critters live.
Public outreach and education can teach residents, visitors, and decision-makers about the vulnerability and importance of beach ecosystems, and promote more informed use and management.
Use proper signage to help beach visitors do their part to protect sandy beaches.
Join the Beach Ecology Coalition, a nonprofit educational organization of beach managers, ecologists, surfers, lifeguards, and others dedicated to improving management of sandy beaches in California for the benefit of wildlife and human recreation. The Coalition's website includes best management practices for grunion, beach driving, plant management, and fire rings.