Beach Nourishment | One Year Later

Beach Nourishment One Year Later

One of the most significant concerns about beach nourishment related to the is the damage it can cause to local animal life and the overall ecology. 

Although ghost crabs, fiddler crabs, and sand fleas may not be the most spectacular species in the sand, if if they aren’t thriving, what we consider a healthy beach environment simply will not exist. 

It is understood that nourishing a beach can be destructive to the animal life that lives on the beach. So there is a legitimate concern about how quickly the beach environment will bounce back after nourishment.

There are a number of scientific studies that have examined the effects of nourishment on  beach life, and all of the studies have concluded that the fauna that make up the beach community are able to recover. However, there is disagreement in terms of the length of time it takes for populations to bounce back.

Without getting into the specifics of which study says what and why, it seemed easiest to grab a camera a take a walk on the Kitty Hawk beach to see for ourselves what was happening.

The shorebirds were out in force. Two in particular, eastern willets and plovers seemed to be everywhere.

That is significant because, for both species, one of their primary foods are ghost crabs, sand fleas and the other fauna that are found on a healthy beach.

These are the birds that seem ubiquitous on any Outer Banks beach. The plovers are the smaller birds that never seem to want to get their feet wet, retreating at a sprint as a wave approaches then running back to where the sand is most wet searching for food.

The willets are a longer legged bird that will also move away as the surf rolls in, although they are not quite as frenetic about it as the plovers. They can often be seen with their beak buried in the sand in search of a tasty crustacean. Because both species enjoy a meal of beach crab of any sort, if they are on the beach, there is something to eat.

The Kitty Hawk beach nourishment ended a year ago. Before nourishment began, there were a number of question concerning recovery of the beach ecosystem.

Is that system fully recovered? It’s hard to say, but we were happy to see evidence that the populations are beginning to return to the area.