OK, I absolutely hate reporting on this study, because I love collecting shells at my favorite beaches – Edisto Island SC and Bull Island SC. Every year I make a frame decorated with some shells and put my kids’ vacation picture in it. I still think it’s a great alternative green souvenir (as opposed to many other items I don’t need that have been shipped long distances and end up in a closet). But alas, a new study reports that there might be a negative environmental impact to tourists collecting shells. The study, in PLOS One and reported on in Conservation Magazine, included surveys of a beach in Spain. Researchers found a significant change in the number of shells after the only factor that had changed was tourism (urban development, fishing, weather, wave action didn’t change significantly). Shells provide shelter for many sea creatures and birds often use them to build nests. So I guess we should keep our eyes on this research and maybe agree to take home fewer shells next year.
Source: Kowalewski, M., R. Domenech, and J. Martinell. 2014. Vanishing clams on an Iberian beach: Local consequences and global implications of accelerating loss of shells to tourism. PLOS ONE doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0083615