The image of a perfect beach usually doesn’t include piles of seaweed and other natural debris. But though it’s not aesthetically pleasing, beach wrack, as those piles are called, is a vital part of a beach’s ecosystem. Grunion, a species of fish, depend on wrack to house their incubating eggs, and other shorebirds forage in wrack for food.
Beach grooming, which scoops up these piles and flattens and redistributes sand, endangers the wrack’s fragile ecosystem and makes the shoreline more vulnerable to erosion. Grooming has been in effect for many of California’s beaches since the 1960s, but only recently did scientists and environmentalists pick up on the importance of a more natural beach look.
Scientists, activists, and beach managers have started to come together to address these concerns, reports Coastal Services. Recent efforts include a ban on grooming below the high tide line, and training workers and managers to recognize and avoid grunion breeding areas. The activist group (in the process of incorporating as the nonprofit Beach Ecology Coalition) is also exploring alternatives to current grooming practices, including seasonal or rotational grooming, hand grooming, or even leaving beaches untouched.
In order to address the potential unhappiness or confusion of the public at the idea of cluttered beaches, the group has launched a campaign to increase awareness of beach ecosystems and how proper action (or inaction) is vital to nature.