Living organisms relate to each other and to the natural environment in which they live. The interaction of living organism with the surrounding environment can either be living (biotic) or non-living (non-biotic). Biodiversity in an ecosystem leads to a full scale complex integration of the organism into a cyclic spatial organization. The interactions create biophysical interrelationships which help to sustain life in a given ecosystem.
The ecosystems across the planet are variable and distinct. This feature clearly define the species of organisms found in different parts thus, biodiversity. The variability of ecosystems also affects the behavioral changes of different organisms. Ecosystems also affect the type of human settlements and activities undertaken. In the recent past, human activities have lead to wanton destruction of ecosystems across the planet. However, several agencies have been put up to curb this menace.
Flora and Fauna
The beauty and descriptive features of most coastal beaches is apparently formed from the living organisms it harbors. One striking feature that will catch your eyes as you approach a given beach is the different species of plants. Apart from providing the aesthetic value, the plants are crucial to the balance of ecosystem (Haslett, 2008).
The plants are essential for the stability of sand dunes. The roots of these plants hold the sand particles intact. They also serve as habitats for the beach animals. Furthermore the beach plants offer mimicry to the animals and also act as a sole source of food for some. Beaches devoid of plant life would not support animal life, a common mutual co existence characteristic of different ecosystems.
Beach grass found in many beaches plays a role in stabilizing shifting sand dunes. The sand is trapped by the stem of this grass. Because of its importance, this plant species is conserved in many areas. It is highly adapted in that it can withstand saline environment and extreme heat. Without it dunes will be shifting from one point to the other. The plant supports other species such as birds, crabs and sea oats. Other plant species are distinct in the coastal beach ecosystem. Manchineel, casuarinas and the coconut palms can be seen at coastal ecosystem. The trees provide habitats for birds.
Beaches form the home for many bird species such as the large pelicans and small bird species. Seagulls are also common in the beach. Piping plover is native to some beaches, while pelicans can also be seen. The flightless bird, penguin is common in cold ocean beaches. Other beach animals include crabs, sea turtles which normally come out of the ocean to lay eggs in the warm sea sand for incubation. Seals are mammals that have been adapted to swimming due to their webbed feet. Apart from large animals there are also small insects and worms, these include beach tiger beetle, beach hoppers, kelp flies just to name a few. Common worms include blood worms which feed micro fauna
Features of Coastal Beaches
Different ecosystem has distinctive features that distinguish them from the rest. The implication many get once the word beach is mentioned is the vast amount of sand, however beaches entail more than this. Beaches consist of cliffs, rocks, estuarine at the points where the river feeds into the ocean. Beaches may also extend several kilometers which depend on the sediment size and type, presence or absence of rivers (Schwartz, 2011).
Presence of coral reefs affects the geomorphology of beaches. These are colonies of small marine organisms. Beaches also consist of other materials such as sand, silt gravels, boulders. Beaches are of different colors which reflect the source of the material. The climate experienced around the beach is maritime type due to the direct influence of the sea or the ocean. Due to the impact of natural forces of wind and water, beach ecosystem is dynamic but not static. Coastlines are subjected to continuous change over time (Schwartz, 2011).
Impacts of Human Activities on Coastal Beach
These are activities that people do on the beach. This includes water abstraction from dunes which leads to lowering of water table. This water can be for both domestic and agricultural use. The lowered water table has adverse effects on ecosystem of sand dunes. This extraction can result to land subsidence, sea level increase or even loss of the beach. Human induced erosion is another negative impact of human activities along the coastal areas. This is partly due to sand extraction for construction purposes. In the long run it leads to the loss of aesthetic value. Mangroves forests along the coastal beaches are being cleared to give space for land development. This leads to dynamic changes on the overall ecosystems.
Developments of ports along the coastal beach lead to loss of flora and fauna. Oil spill accidents lead to soil pollution on the beach. The oil clogs the birds’ wings causing their death. Crawling insects may also die due to clogging of their respiratory organs. Poor sewage treatment lead to disposal of toxic chemical to the oceans which in the long run pose danger to beach ecology (Heinz, 2000). Litter left by tourist is an escalating problem. The litter constitutes of non-biodegradable plastic materials. Despite environmental impacts, the litter detracts the aesthetic value of the beach. Negligence of proper disposal mechanism has led to backshore accumulation of litter.
Effects of Global Warming on Coastal Beaches
Global warming is on increase due to release of greenhouse gases mainly carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide levels have been on increase partly due to destruction of forests and industrial revolution. In addition to increment in temperatures, sea levels are likely to rise due to thawing of polar ice and glaciers. Rising sea levels will induce erosion along sandy shores. Global warming will induce changes in climatic patterns; some areas are likely to receive storm surges and hurricanes. The changed weather patterns will lead to variation in the ecology of these ecosystems. Increased rainfall will lead to erosion, retreat of beaches, vegetation loss and species migration. (McLachlan & Brown, 2006).
Although the process seems to be gradual, the effects will be highly adaptable. Thermal expansion of sea water poses a serious danger to marine animals and those in beach ecosystems. This is due to the constant increase in the temperature levels in the sea water. If these organisms fail to acclimatize with the situation they will die or eventually migrate to other more accommodative areas. This will cause loss of revenue and disruption of the ecosystem. In comparison to other part of the world less impact are expected due to enhanced environmental conservation undertaken and stringent policies implemented. Nevertheless, generalized increase in sea level will not be avoided.
Haslett, S. K. (2008). Coastal Systems. London: Taylor and Francis publisher.
Heinz, J. H. (2000). The Hidden Costs of Coastal Hazards: Implications for Risk Assessment and Mitigation. Washington D.C: Island Press.
McLachlan, A., & Brown, C. (2006). The Ecology of Sandy Shores. Massachusetts: Academic Press.
Schwartz, L. M. (2005). Encyclopedia of Earth Sciences. New York: Springer publishers.