Conserve Wildlife Blog

Survey of Beach Litter Finds Many Threats to Nesting Birds

October 1st, 2020

by Mary Emich

Plover chick next to a seabeach amaranth plant. Photo by Alice Brennan.

Despite hundreds of trash bins conveniently located on the beach, litter is still found in the sand every day. Many people enjoy their summer days at a key beach nesting bird site in Sea Girt. Beach goers leave behind trash that litters the crucial environment. These include plastic bottles, bags, cans, wrappers, straws, fishing line, etc. Plastic pollution effects the surrounding environment and wildlife that inhabits it.

At the Sea Girt beach, piping plovers (Charadrius melodus), an endangered beach nesting bird species, travels hundreds of miles to breed and nest during the summertime. This species is directly affected by the amount of litter that pollutes the beach. Every year shore birds, and many other species, ingest plastic or get entangled in fishing line which lessens their chance of survival.

Seabeach Amaranth. Photo by Meghan Kolk.

Another significant endangered species located at Sea Girt beach is seabeach amaranth (Amaranthus pumilus). This annual plant needs a healthy ecosystem free of debris to thrive every season. It is important to maintain a strong coastal habit for reproduction and population growth.

Twenty weeks of litter was collected at the Sea Girt beach with approximately 200 plastic straws, 50 plastic bags, 75 bottles, and 25 pieces of fishing line. Pollution on the beach can be prevented if patrons are mindful of properly disposing their trash at the end of their trip.

20 weeks worth of beach trash recovered from the Sea Girt beach.

Mary Emich is an assistant biologist with Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

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