Ecology of California's Sandy Beaches

Science Center Objects

WERC's Dr. Kevin Lafferty studies the food webs of California's sandy beaches, which support a network of wildlife from predators to prey. Species that depend on this habitat include the endangered western snowy plover.

A photo of a seagull chasing a white egret.
A photo of a gull chasing a white egret with a fish in its mouth. Credit Callie Bowdish.(Public domain.)

Addressing Conservation Challenges on California’s Sandy Beaches

California’s sandy beaches are famously sunny and beautiful, known as hotspots for surfing, sunbathing, and tourism. At the same time, they are a ribbon of habitat where shorebirds and other wildlife gather to feed, rest, and migrate. Sandy beaches’ intricate networks of invertebrate prey, competitors, and predators support species like the endangered western snowy plover, making these ecosystems — and their conflicts with human activities — the focus of notable challenges in conservation.

Recent studies suggest that interactions between wildlife could determine the way sandy beach ecosystems function. Dr. Kevin Lafferty is leading a study that compares the sandy beaches of Santa Barbara County, CA in terms of the wildlife diversity they can support, in order to understand how management and conservation efforts might affect these ecosystems. Results from this study can help resource managers identify key opportunities for restoration and species management.