2/11/2012

Drift Logs And Beaches

Large drift log being buried by cobble beach near Sooke, BC
The forest is not the only place to see trees. Beaches often are the final resting place for whole big trees and giant drift logs.

When big trees of the coastal rain forest tumble and make their way to the Pacific Ocean, they begin their new life as a drift log. This woody debris, and serious navigational hazard, can drift for months far out at sea. A friend, a fisheries inspector, saw a whole tree floating perfectly upright in the waves 100 km off Vancouver Island.

Logging activity adds a lot of drift logs to local waters and beaches

 Many drift logs end up on beaches. Some stay for a while before being washed out to sea again, and others become permanent features.

The form and shape of beaches in the Pacific Northwest are greatly affected by the thousands and thousands of drift logs constantly spewing from coastal forest waterways from both human-related, and natural activities.

Drift logs pile up at the back of beaches, but large storms can still move them,
French Beach, Sooke, BC
Drift logs make their own horizontal, jumbled forest along thousands of kilometers of sand and cobble beaches. Over the years, great piles of grey sun-bleached logs can pile up at the back of beaches, under the boughs of their still-living comrades at the ocean/forest interface.

Many drift logs become completely buried, turning 1500 year old trees into fossils over tens of thousands of years.

Driftwood buried by beach gravel

There are ancient Pacific coast beaches that have been lifted high by tectonic activity onto the slopes of coastal mountains. Digging on these terraces at elevation in Oregon, USA revealed 100,000 year old drift logs buried in the sand.

Drift logs are influenced by high tides, gales, and winter storms. Recent peregian spring tides, which are the highest of the year, have moved beach drift logs around. During winter storms the Sooke river disgorges, at irregular intervals, all kinds of woody debris, including some very large logs and trees.

If you haven't been to your local beach for a while, now is a good time to visit to see if the drift log collection has changed.

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