Low Energy Beaches
Schofield Middle School
Low energy beaches form when sediments carried by tidal
creeks are deposited when current energy drops. These beaches tend
to form in an area where there is an inlet. The area where tidal
creeks empty into an inlet area is where these unique features are found.
Tidal forces help create the low energy beach. The sediments carried
in the creek water are usually very fine sands and clays, with particles
smaller than typical beach sand. When tidal creek water flow meets
water flow from the rising tide in an inlet, the creeks’ water flow is
slowed and these fine sediments are deposited. Typically, one end of the
beach will be sand, while the other end will be soft mud or clay.
During flood tides, the beach may be somewhat covered with very shallow
water, similar to a sandbar. During the ebb tide, or low tide, the
beach is completely exposed.
As mentioned, the low energy beach is typically barren.
No plants are found except for some uni-cellular algae and the occasional
sea lettuce. Spartina grass can be found on the border of the salt marsh
and the low energy beach. Other than that, no vegetation will be
While plant life is virtually non-existent, diversity is the name of the
game when it comes to other organisms. While the "touristy" beaches
may have approximately thirty species, a low energy beach may have around
three hundred different species. Many of these creatures have used
burrowing as a method of staying alive on a low energy beach. They
do so for a few reasons. First, burrowing under the sand allows them
to stay in one place. Because they are under ground, water currents
do not move them. Also, burrowing acts as a buffer for extremes of
temperature and salinity. Another important aspect of burrowing is
that it protects from predators.
So, what different types of organisms live under ground? Right.
There are numerous types of worms on a low energy beach. But there
are also crabs, such as the horseshoe crab that burrow. How do they
eat? Several ways. Some, such as several worms and some crabs,
are filter feeders. This means they take in water and filter the
nutrients. Others are direct feeders, which means they can use their
mouths to eat the source of nutrition. Also, there are indirect feeders,
which use tentacles to bring food to the mouth.
Symbiosis is another term used to describing a low energy beach,
because there are many creatures living together on a low energy beach.
There are three types of symbiotic relationships. Commensalism, where
two organisms live together and one benefits while the other is not hurt,
but does not get a benefit. One example of commensalism is the commensal
crabs that live in the tube of the Parchment Tube worm. Mutualism,
where both parties benefit, and parasitism, where one benefits and the
other is harmed.
Organisms that can be found on a low energy beach and in the shallow
waters that border it include: Parchment Tube worms, Spaghetti Worms, Bloodworms,
flukes, flatworms, sea squirts, hermit crabs, sea cucumbers, sea spiders,
acorn worms, Moon Snail, Sea Slug, Sand Dollar, sea lettuce, Lady Crabs,
and Blue Crabs.
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The views expressed in this page are not necessarily the views of the University
of South Carolina Aiken.