Indian River County’s beaches are full of much more than sand! Click on the different beach ecosystems and organisms below to learn more about each one!
When you go to the beach here in Indian River County you may find yourself walking on a wooden cross over or through a sandy path surrounded by vegetation in order to access the beach. These crossovers or paths are taking you over/through sand dunes.
Sand dunes are protected by State statues & County ordinances. They play a vital role in the protection & restoration of beaches acting as the first line of defense, offering upland developments and infrastructure protection against storm, wind, and wave events.
These designated paths & crossovers are instrumental in protecting sand dunes, offering beach goers access to the beach.
Dunes & dune vegetation can be damaged by something as simple as walking on unauthorized accesses.
The best way to help protect and preserve our dunes is to use the designated paths & crossovers and STAY OFF THE DUNES at all times!
The beach isn’t considered the most ideal growing environment for plants. With high winds/waves, salt water, & limited nutrients, it’s a miracle anything grows there!
Where most other plants fail, dune vegetation thrives! You can find various species of dune vegetation scattered among the sand dunes here in Indian River County (IRC). Dune vegetation is especially adapted to thrive in the dynamic beach ecosystem and plays a very important role for sand dunes.
Read the infographic below to learn more about the importance of dune vegetation and view 4 species of common native dune vegetation found here in IRC!
When going to the beach you may notice lots and lots of seaweed cast ashore. The large majority of this seaweed is called Sargassum. Sargassum is a native free-floating algae that is found in thick patches off our coast where it fosters many juvenile species of sea creatures, providing food and shelter before they are large enough to go off on their own.
While these large patches seen along our coast may not be the prettiest site to look at, this Sargassum and other ocean materials cast ashore make up a very important line called the wrack line. The wrack line is both essential and beneficial, naturally building beaches, as well as serving as a food source for shore birds and crabs.
The wrack line, even as large and thick as it gets, is natural and does not inhibit nesting sea turtles. Humans can search among the wrack to find various shells, seeds, sea glass, and sadly trash. You can do your part to help keep our beaches and wrack line natural by removing trash and disposing of it properly.
For further information on the wrack line see the infographic below!
Nearshore hardbottom reefs are a dynamic shallow water ocean ecosystem that are constantly covered and exposed based on wave energy and sand movement. Nearshore hardbottom reefs range from St Augustine all the way down to Miami Dade and are mostly composed of limestone rock like coquina. These reefs are part of the Anastasia geologic formation along the coast of Florida which formed approximately 120,000 years ago.
These reefs host a large variety of species and serve as a breeding site for over 1,100 species like sea turtles, fish, & invertebrates. These species associated with nearshore hardbottom reefs will interact with many other ocean ecosystems making them valuable to our ocean’s biodiversity.
Nearshore hardbottom reefs also serve a value to humans. These reefs act as a barrier to reduce wave energy thus reducing shoreline erosion. These reefs also serve a recreational value of fishing, snorkeling, birdwatching, and photography.