June 2009 was the first time I noticed this heap of orange and green fishing net flotsam. It had probably washed ashore over the winter months. It was already partly covered by wind-blown sand and a plant had established itself on top of the nets.
Each time I visited the same location over the next six months (in August, October, November and December) I recorded the fate of the nets to see what would happen. With the passage of time, the nets began to be incorporated into the beach, being buried by the sand and bound by the root systems of colonising plants which later decomposed within the synthetic fibres and inert sediments.
In archaeology, the study of the processes that affect organic objects after they have been discarded is termed taphonomy. Strictly speaking the term is applied to organic materials becoming part of the fossil record (see an example definition). It has, however, been applied to the fate of inorganic objects – the taphonomy of artefacts. I think the term might also be suitably applied to the fate of organic and synthetic objects on the seashore that are affected by natural (and sometimes man-made) events. These might include processes such as burial by sediment drift or wave action; alteration by erosion and weathering; colonisation or destruction by other animal or plant organisms; and mechanical damage or incineration.