Beach wrack is the official name of the scattered clumps of stranded seaweed on the beach along the high tide line and are a pivotal part of the beach ecosystem. In fact, it’s the wrack that actually brings the beach to life and is the best place to find sea shells and other seaborne curiosities! Beach wracks keep beaches from becoming barren places because they provide the nutrients, moisture and protection to the unique life of the beach creatures. In the wrack you’ll find ghost crabs, beach tiger beetles, and many species of birds.
Beach wrack is made of sea grass, reeds, and algae that have drifted at sea before washing ashore, especially after storms. When ashore, the wrack becomes host to insects and tiny crustaceans, which provide food for other creatures. Migrating shorebirds fly here each year to eat the nutritious meals found in the stranded seaweed. Wrack also provides a safe haven for animals in which to hide from predators. Shorebirds can rest in the wrack and seem to disappear by blending with the similar shads of browns and grays.
Beach wrack is critical to the health of the sand dunes, too. They provide nutrients and stabilize windblown sand. The wrack carries seeds from dune plants, such as morning glory and sea rocket. As these seeds take root and sand builds up, new dunes will grow.
A natural beach on which the wracks are not raked is far healthier than a beach that is groomed. The beach with wracks is much more interesting and diverse than a sterile, raked beach. I have seen beach wrack while walking at Blue Mountain Beach
and found it fascinating. I also saw a strip of wrack on the beach at Grayton and the children were carefully examining it and I’m sure they learned a lot from their curiousity. The next time you see a clump of seaweed, don’t kick it aside – take the time to enjoy the benefits that wrack provides the beach and us.