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Attention! During a beach clean-up, the people of the community have to be made aware of the importance of protecting habitat and endangered and/or threatened species as well as of the problems caused by marine debris. Increased awareness is essential for your coastline restoration efforts. Coastlines are habitats that are rich in plants and animals; destroying them endangers the survival of many species.
Dunes and sandy beaches
We must understand that beaches are not simply places for us to enjoy but important ecosystems in the coastal zone. They provide a home for many plant and animal species and protect fragile areas (salt marshes) behind the dunes from the extreme forces of wind and water. As the habitat is destroyed, not only will it affect the many species that live here but also the land behind the dunes.
Don't walk on the dunes
Beach grass or marram grass is the most common plant on the beach. Without this plant, the dune wouldn't be stable. It stabilizes the shifting sand and prepares it for further plant colonization. Its long underground stems or rhizomes trap the sand like a very fine-meshed net and significantly decreases erosion.
Marram grass is very sensitive to being trampled by feet and driven over by vehicles. These factors contribute most to the dunes' destruction. Once eroded, the dunes no longer protect the estuaries, resulting in significant material losses, especially during storms. It took several thousand years for these dunes to be formed, so it's important to protect them.
Don't pick up seaweed, driftwood and shells. They are not garbage.
Each component of the marine habitat has a key role in preserving the stability of the marine environment. Everything you do can affect the ecological balance in a positive or negative way, on a small or large scale.
Some of the places your going to clean may be a habitat for endangered or threatened species. Consult with your local naturalist club or the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) to ensure that you protect important habitats, such as nesting grounds for the common tern, piping plover and many species of ducks. Scheduling your Beach Sweep outside of critical seasons, can help reduce the risk to these species.
Salt marshes are some of the most productive ecosystems along the coast. Marshes plants play a key role in this productivity. They grow very fast, and when they die and decompose, they provide organic nutrients to the salt marsh and surrounding ecosystems.
Many species of fish, molluscs, crustaceans, and birds inhabit or visit salt marshes grasses for the abundance of high quality food. Researchers have determined that, for equivalent surface areas, salt marshes productivity is equal to that of the Amazon rain forest! When we fill in or destroy a salt marsh, we indirectly reduce the amount of food available for other organisms, like lobster!
If we alter or destroy those ecosystems, the effects can ripple throughout the other ecosystems of the coastal zone. The health of the marshes and the dunes are important for the integrity of the coastal zone. If we don't protect them, sooner or later we'll be the ones who suffer for it!
Local agencies and the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) can assist you in identifying sites of fragile habitats along the shore. Once these sites have been located, clearly mark them and inform all the volunteers where they are located.