Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Study of Cape Cod Seashore finds off-road vehicles harmful to beach fauna

21.05.2004


URI graduate student reports 50 percent reduction in populations of invertebrates on beaches where driving is permitted



When off-road vehicles drive on beaches, they can reduce the number of creatures living on the beach by as much as 50 percent, according to a recently completed three-year study by a University of Rhode Island graduate student.

"The effect of traffic on the beaches is significant," said Jacqueline Steinback of East Falmouth, Mass., who studied the creatures living in and around the wrack -- the vegetation that accumulates at the high tide line -- on the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore.


"Scientists originally thought that driving on beaches wouldn’t have much impact since beaches are constantly changing and the species are already surviving waves, winds and extreme temperatures. But traffic is still having an effect on certain species," she added.

Funded by the National Park Service, Steinback’s research compared the composition and abundance of beach invertebrates living in and around the wrack on beaches with and without vehicular traffic. She took core samples, set pitfall traps, and collected wrack samples on three beaches at the Cape Cod National Seashore -- Race Point North, Race Point South, and Coast Guard Beach in North Truro.

On beaches where traffic was permitted, the number of animals tallied was from 30 to 50 percent lower than on beaches where traffic was prohibited.

"The wrack line is where a lot of insects and crustaceans congregate and live," she said. "Birds and other scavengers pick through it. It’s an important part of beach ecosystems."

The wrack is used in many different ways by different animals. For instance, many creatures use it as both food and cover from predators and extreme temperatures; several species of flies use it as a site to lay their eggs; and wolf spiders migrate back and forth from the beach grass to the wrack to feed on small crustaceans called amphipods.

"Some species, like beach hoppers, are very susceptible to drying out in immature stages, so they hang out and feed under the wrack," Steinback said. But when vehicles drive over the wrack, their tires break up the vegetation, which makes it dry out. "That changes the abundance and diversity of species on the beach."

Steinback noted that the beach ecosystem is very variable because environmental conditions change from day to day. As a result, species composition changes daily as well.

"The important thing is that the Park Service is doing a good job of protecting most of the species diversity by limiting where people can drive and encouraging them to stay away from the wrack. If you protect the wrack, you protect many of the species, especially those that spend part of their life burrowed in the bare sand behind the wrack where vehicles are instructed to drive," she said.

Steinback suggests that one step the Park Service might take to further protect beach fauna is to close beaches to traffic on an alternating schedule, rather than close some beaches for the entire season and open others.

"Maybe by alternating closures at various beaches, there wouldn’t be such a consistent negative impact on the beaches where traffic is allowed," she said. "The species are flexible and move around a great deal, so by regularly opening and closing the beaches to traffic, the impact may not be as great.

"This is an environment that few people study, so there are still lots of questions," she concluded. "Off-road vehicles are having a tremendous impact on many natural communities, but on these beaches they haven’t yet caused long-term damage that can’t be remedied."

Todd McLeish | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.uri.edu/

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>