Human use and modification of beaches and dunes are linked to ghost crab (Ocypode spp) population decline in Ghana
The increasing urbanization of much of the world’s coasts threatens irreversible damages to beach ecosystems, if unchecked. Unfortunately, beach monitoring programmes for remediation actions are uncommon, especially for less developed nations where infrastructural development and socio-economic goals are regarded more important than environmental goals. This study aimed at obtaining information about the effects of the modification and use of beaches and dunes on beach biota using ghost crab burrow density and size as variables. The study tested a hypothesis that the mean densities and sizes of ghost crab burrows on six beaches under three categories of human use in the Central Region of Ghana are different. Results indicated that low use beaches had significantly higher numbers of burrows and larger burrow sizes compared to medium use and high use beaches. Since physical and environmental parameters were consistently the same amongst the six surveyed beaches, the paper concluded that the differences in the observed beach use and dune modifications were responsible for the observed differences in ghost crab abundance and sizes. Major beach use such as intense trampling levels and clearing of dune vegetation for infrastructural developments are most likely responsible for the observed differences. On account of ecological considerations, it is recommended that beach land use reforms by coastal municipal authorities in Ghana should ensure that infrastructure development along undeveloped sections of the coast is limited to a safe distance from the shoreline. There should also be consideration of natural vegetation barriers between development and the beach to enhance natural beach–dune ecosystem interaction.