The surf zone is the long, often narrow strip of sand and shells between the tides. Daily flooding by salt water and moderate- to high-energy waves prohibit plant growth except for some inconspicuous algae. The surf zone is an important nursery and feeding habitat for many species of fish. Low-energy beaches provide important spawning habitat for horseshoe crabs and feeding habitat for multiple species of shorebirds. Beaches are also vital nesting sites for many sea turtles and support numerous other mammals and invertebrates.
The beach and surf zone habitat is likely to have 69% of the current area inundated by 1 m of sea level rise and 91% inundated by 3 m of sea level rise. As sea level rises, it may be that new beach areas are formed, replacing other habitats as they become inundated; however, if and where this may happen depends on many variables, such as the geomorphology of the area or the existence of barriers to formation (e.g., hardened shoreline).
The loss of beach/surf zone habitat will impact many species that depend on this habitat such as mole skinks, terrapins and shorebirds. The Cedar Key mole skink depends on the wrack (plant material washed up on the beach) found along the beaches. The surf zone provides foraging habitat for many species of shorebirds.