June 12, 2024 at 9:51 am

Here’s Why You Should Leave Seashells On The Beaches Where You Find Them

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

If you’re someone who doesn’t live near the ocean, everything about your trip there might be a special memory.

One of the ways people choose to remember their time is by collecting pretty shells on the beach and bringing them home.

Experts, though, say you should resist this urge, however strong.

A study in 2014 looked into how the removal of seashells from beaches can cause “significant damage” to coastal ecosystems – and especially to the life forms that use the shells for various purposes.

Not only to shells help stabilize the beach, birds use them as building materials for their nests. They can also provide a home or attachment surface for many marine organisms like algae, seagrass, sponges, and crustaceans.

Source: Shutterstock

They are also a source of calcium carbonate, which dissolves in seawater before being recycled.

Michael Kowalewski, the lead author of the study, explained more in a statement.

“Shells are remarkable in that they serve multiple functions in natural ecosystems.”

Mollusk shell expert Geerat Vermeij, who was not involved in the study, agrees.

“Molluscan shells are of prime importance to hermit crabs, and although sand beaches are not good places for such crabs, dead snail shells on mud-flats and rocky shores do form a primary resource for abundant hermit crabs. More subtly, many small organisms settle on dead shells, and so removing such shells will eliminate habitats for these colonists.”

For the study, researchers carried out multiple monthly surveys between 1978 to 1981, then from 2008-2010 on Llarga Beach, near Barcelona. They found the number of seashells lost was around 60% between the two periods.

They suspect the demise of the shells was mostly due to an influx of tourists, especially during the busy summer months.

“Humans may play a significant role in altering habitats through activities that many would perceive as mostly harmless, such as beachcombing and seashell collecting. It is important that we continue to investigate the more subtle aspects of tourism-related activities and their impact on shoreline habitats.”

Source: Shutterstock

It’s also illegal to remove shells from the beach in many parts of the world, including the United Kingdom.

Other places, like the States, allow it but you can’t take any protected or endangered species.

So unless you’re a marine life expert, it’s probably left to leave the beach the way you found it.

In fact, that’s probably a good rule of thumb no matter where you visit.

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