Ecosystems

A balance in the various ecosystems around the world is what is vital for a sustainable and healthy planet
An ecosystem is a system of living organisms which interact with one another and their surrounding environment. This includes all of the plants, animals and other living things that make up the communities of life in an area. An ecosystem also includes nonliving materials—for example, water, rocks, soil, and sand.

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Sandy Beaches

Sandy beaches may at first seem barren and devoid of life but that’s because most life elements are hiding beneath the sand only becoming active at high tide or at night.

Characterised by instability, sandy beaches are constantly changing as sand is continually lifted and shifted by the action of waves and wind. Flora and fauna have had to adapt to this incessant instability and constant change in order to survive. Most seaweed cannot grow in beachy areas as there is nothing to attachment themselves to. However, beyond the beach, in the dunes, a vast number of plants thrive. Animal life on the sandy shore is limited to birds and extremely small species such as worms and crustaceans, which live in the spaces between the sand grains. Somer bigger species such as plough snails and crabs burrow and into the sand following the rhythms of the rising and falling tide. The food web is very much dependent upon plankton, seaweed and other edible food items which are deposited on the beach by wave action.

White steenbras (Lithognathus lithognathus), three spot swimming crabs (Portunus sanguinolentus), cuttlefish, lesser guitarfish (Acroteriobatus annulatus) and eagle rays (Pteromylaeus bovinus) cruise over the sand feeding on plough snails (Bullia digitalis), sand mussels (Donax serra) and sand prawns (Callichirus kraussi) 

A variety of bird species such as there White-fronted plover (Charadrius marginatus), Damara tern (Sternula balaenarum), Kelp gull (Larus dominicanus) probe the exposed beach for crustaceans, bivalves, molluscs and other animal and planet matter.

Plants and animals need to deal with very strong wave action, avoid predation and adapt to changing currents. Filter feeding organisms such as black mussels (Choromytilus meridionalis), oysters (Striostrea margaritacea) and barnacles thrive during high tide as the wave action brings nutrient rich water.

Adaptations are vital for the survival of plants and animals which find themselves exposed and in direct sunlight during low tide. Certain seaweeds such as sea lettuce (Ulva lactuca) can tolerate very harsh conditions by surrounding themselves with a mucous layer. Crabs (Cancer productus), snails (Bullia digitalis) and bivalves (Perna perna) have thick shells which help to slow evaporation.

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