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Sandy bottoms

Sandy bottoms are far from being the uninhabited deserts that they appear. Sandy bottoms have an enormous wealth of life and support a range of tiny plants and animals. Many small animals can live in the spaces between the sand grains while large animals, such as stingrays, hide beneath the sand and feed on the small animals that live there.

Soldier crabs clean the sand by scooping it up and sifting through it for food. Photo courtesy of Chad Buxton.Many patterns that you see in sandy bottoms are often created by animals foraging for food in the sand. Stingrays create large craters and pits in the sand as they excavate for buried prey, whilst soldier crabs are responsible for the tiny balls of sand found in the low tide mark. Soldier crabs effectively clean the sand by scooping it up and sifting through it for food. Without these crabs our beaches would not be the pristine colour we are accustomed to.

Life on our sandy beaches plays an under-rated part in Australia’s rich natural heritage. But in many areas of our coastline, it is life under pressure. Australia faces a mass human migration towards the coast and our beaches.

Threats

Dredging and trawling can impact on the structure of sandy bottom habitats. Sandy bottoms are also under threat from things such as four wheel driving, climate change, oil pollution and urban run off. The exact ecological consequences of these changes on our sandy beach marine life is uncertain, but changes to the natural structure, function, distribution and abundance of marine species of our sandy shores is likely. To us it may still look like sand but to the animals that live and feed there it is different.

Solutions

  • Try and use natural cleaning products in your home (eg bi-carb soda and vinegar) to reduce nutrients and chemicals going into the bay.
  • Take care when driving on the beach.

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