Test Page

KINGSTON, R.I. (May 20, 2004) -- When off-road vehicles drive on beaches, they can reduce the number of creatures living on the beach by as much as 50 percent, according to a recently completed three-year study by a University of Rhode Island graduate student.

"The effect of traffic on the beaches is significant," said Jacqueline Steinback of East Falmouth, Mass., who studied the creatures living in and around the wrack -- the vegetation that accumulates at the high tide line -- on the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore.

"Scientists originally thought that driving on beaches wouldn't have much impact since beaches are constantly changing and the species are already surviving waves, winds and extreme temperatures. But traffic is still having an effect on certain species," she added.

Funded by the National Park Service, Steinback's research compared the composition and abundance of beach invertebrates living in and around the wrack on beaches with and without vehicular traffic. She took core samples, set pitfall traps, and collected wrack samples on three beaches at the Cape Cod National Seashore -- Race Point North, Race Point South, and Coast Guard Beach in North Truro.

On beaches where traffic was permitted, the number of animals tallied was from 30 to 50 percent lower than on beaches where traffic was prohibited.

"The wrack line is where a lot of insects and crustaceans congregate and live," she said. "Birds and other scavengers pick through it. It's an important part of beach ecosystems."


The Trustees of Reservations is proud to protect and steward the irreplaceable, including numerous threatened and endangered species around the state, and along the coast. This includes the Piping Plover, which nests at several of our properties, with our largest population on Crane Beach in Ipswich.

Podcast: Trustees of the Beach

"It is also widely recognized that beach driving can cause serious ecological impacts by potentially destroying nesting areas for sea turtles and birds such as the piping plover and damaging or destroying vegetation and dunes. Shore erosion can be accelerated by careless beach driving and vehicles on the beach can be a safety hazard to beach goers."

Vehicles on the Beach

"Unmanaged off-road vehicle uses cause significant long-term damage to our environment. In coastal dune environments, four-wheel driving can contribute to physical changes in the structure of the beaches, the destruction of dune vegetation and to the introduction and spread of pest species and diseases into the coastal environment, leading to a significant loss of biodiversity. A healthy dune system is also an important buffer, acting to protect the mainland from erosion and storm events."

Cars damage the beach face

America’s beaches are our favorite places to relax… when the water is safe. Where is water pollution harming our ability to enjoy the beach?

What can we do to stop it?

Please check out the schedule of summer Wildlife Wednesdays talks at Kettle Pond Visitors Center, hosted by the Friends of Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuges. In particular, the July 12th speakers are URI graduate students highlighting their ongoing shorebird research projects. 

Friends of Rhode Island National Wildlife Refuges – Wildlife Wednesdays

Horseshoe crabs used to be everywhere. Millions of years before dinosaurs roamed the planet, each spring, the hard-shelled creatures gathered to mate in massive mounds along the beaches of the Atlantic coast. Later, migratory shorebirds like the robin-sized red knot learned to fly up from South America to join them for a feast. The crabs’ eggs gave the birds the energy they needed to keep flying north to breed in the Arctic.

But humans began to want something from the crabs, too – their blood.

These shoreline birds have been migrating to Rhode Island's coastlines for centuries, laying eggs amongst the rocks and nesting in tall seagrass. These birds come back to the same spot to nest every year, so officials from U.S. Fish and Wildlife spend the first half of spring posting signs and designating areas for the birds to enjoy rough terrain with rocks and sand, without interruption from pets and people.

Beachgoers Asked to Respect Growing Piping Plover Population This Summer