Biodiversity & Conservation

Talitrid amphipods in decomposing seaweed on the strand-line



Image Paul Brazier - View along sand and gravel shore backed by seawall (strandline debris). Image width ca XX cm.
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Distribution map

LS.LSa.St.Tal recorded (dark blue bullet) and expected (light blue bullet) distribution in Britain and Ireland (see below)

  • EC_Habitats

Marine natural heritage importance

Listed under EC Habitats Directive
National importance Widespread
Habitat Directive feature (Annex 1) Mudflats and sandflats not covered by seawater at low tide
Large shallow inlets and bays

Biotope importance

Large numbers of birds feed along the strand-line at certain times of the year, e.g. waders, corvids, passerines and seabirds. There has been considerable concern that removal of the strand-line debris could have an adverse effect on bird populations, as invertebrate populations, upon which the birds feed are likely to reduced as a consequence of habitat removal (Llewellyn & Shackley, 1996). Llewellyn & Shackley (1996) reported that the population of two species of wader had decreased by 90% during the early 1990s in Swansea Bay, Wales and suspected that mechanical raking to remove 'unsightly' organic material from the beach had left the birds with little to feed on. Survey work indicated that on uncleaned beaches several thousand insects could be found per square metre of sand, whilst on mechanically cleaned beaches the insect count dropped to a few hundred per square metre of sand (Llewellyn & Shackley, 1996).


In many popular tourist resorts, sandy beaches are cleaned by mechanical means, which involves the removal of litter, flotsam and natural strand-line debris. It is a criterion that in order for a beach to receive an EnCams Seaside Award or Blue Flag status that 'no algal or other vegetation may accumulate or decay on the beach, except in areas designated for a specific use, and as long as this does not constitute a nuisance' (EnCams, 2002; FEE, 2002). Consequently in order to gain such awards and maintain the amenity function of the beach, many local councils beach clean during the year but especially over the period between Easter and October. Such cleaning operations coincide with the reproductive period of strand-line fauna. Whilst litter presents a hazard and is unsightly, removal of natural strand-line detritus will impact upon the degradation and cycling of nutrients and potentially the stability of sand dune ecosystems.
Historically, stranded seaweed was collected as a garden conditioner but is probably no longer as widely practised.

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This review can be cited as follows:

Budd, G.C. 2004. Talitrid amphipods in decomposing seaweed on the strand-line. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Sub-programme [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 30/11/2015]. Available from: <>