Sand and Gravel Beaches/Sand Bar

This tool lists various Habitat Fact Sheets developed by the Region 5 Regional Response Team. To suggest additions to this tool, please contact Barbi Lee. Click here for Inland Response Tactics Manual.

I. Habitat Description

Beaches: areas infrequently flooded with nonvegetated sand or gravel. It typically includes sand spoil banks, beaches, and other sandy areas that are upland. This general class may have small inclusions of grasses or forbs (<10%), trees (<10%), or shrubs (<25%).

Sand Bar: areas that are temporarily flooded and exposed with nonvegetated sand flats. They are typically found in or near the main channel and are often associated with wing dams, shorelines, and islands. Sand bars may become exposed due to low water levels. This general class may have small incursions of grasses or forbs (<10%) or shrubs (<25%), but usually does not support plant life.

II. Sensitivity to Oil Spills

Due to lack of vegetation and low biodiversity, sand and gravel beaches and sand bars are moderately sensitive to oil spills. However, oil can stick to sand, and has the ability to flow downward in spaces between sand grains and gravel, accumulating in lower levels, making recovery more difficult and increasing the chance of groundwater contamination. Beaches and sandbars are also ideal nesting and foraging habitat for a variety of shorebirds, including the endangered interior population of Least Tern (Sternula antillarum) and the threatened Piping Plover (Charadrius melodus). These areas are also popular recreation sites and exposure to oil may have significant socioeconomic impacts. 

Beach Type                                            Grain Size

Pebble-Cobble                                       2-256 mm (0.078-10.07 in.)

Mixed sediment/sand- gravel              0.1-64 mm (0.0039-2.52 in.) and cobbles up to 256 mm (10.07 in.)

Sand                                                         0.1-2 mm (0.0039-0.078 in.)

III. Sensitivity to Response Methods

The following text describes potential adverse impacts to this habitat resulting from various oil spill response methods and provides recommendations to reduce impact when these methods are implemented.  This is not intended to preclude the use of any particular methods, but rather to aid responders in balancing the need to remove oil with the possible adverse effects of removal.  More detail about the response methods themselves can be found in the Inland Response Tactics Manual.