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What Makes Sardinian Sand Pink?

What Makes Sardinian Sand Pink

Sardinia is known for its natural beauty, with glistening, crystal-clear waters and some of the world’s best beaches.

One beach that has gotten a great deal of attention is Spiaggia Rosa, situated on the idyllic island of Budelli in the Archipelago of La Maddalena (Northern Sardinia).

While there are endless beaches in Sardinia to take your breath away, like Cala Brandinchi and Spiaggia della Speranza, Spiaggia Rosa stands out for something quite unique—its pink sand.

Most beaches in the region boast white sand, reminiscent of tropical paradises in the Indian Ocean. But, due to Spiaggia Rosa’s location and a combination of other factors, the sand sports a gorgeous pink hue.

In today’s post, we are going to delve into what makes Sardinian sand pink.

We will discuss the science and wonder behind this distinct color and discover more about this beautiful part of the world.

What Is Sand?

Before we can discuss the color, we need to step back and ask: What exactly is sand, anyway?

It may sound like a silly question, as we have all experienced sand in our lives. But have you ever stopped to think about what actually makes up these small granules?

Well, that’s exactly what sand is: a small granular material made up of tiny particles ranging in diameter from around 0.0625 mm to 2 mm.

The composition of sand will depend on the makeup of surrounding rock sources and its location. Most commonly, however, sand is composed of quartz (silicon dioxide), a silica material.

Sand is produced by the gradual weathering (wind, rain, and ocean current) of rocks and minerals, but quartz is not affected by this process.

The mineral remains in its small granular form before reaching shore and becoming sand on beaches.

When formed, sand typically has a yellow hue. This is down to a mixture of quartz particles with other particles or impurities in the quartz crystal.

That being said, beaches vary throughout the world, with many not being made up of sand that is rich in quartz.

That is why we see other colors, such as white, red, purple, gray, brown, orange, black, and pink.

Why Is Spiaggia Rosa’s Sand Pink?

Many wonder if Budelli’s pink beach is down to the sun’s rays settling on minerals and pebbles, resulting in pink reflections, but the main cause of pink sand coloring is marine biodiversity.

Protozoa, a group of single-celled organisms, are partly responsible for Sardinia’s pink beach.

Protozoa are microscopic and are usually found in aquatic environments, including freshwater and marine habitats, but are also present in soil and even in the bodies of other organisms as parasites.

These organisms play important roles in ecosystems as predators, prey, and decomposers. They are essential components of the microbial world and contribute to ecosystem functioning in various ways.

The pink hue appears because of Miniacina Miniacea, single-celled organisms that choose oceanic Posidonia as their habitat.

Also considered an aquatic plant, oceanic posidonia grows in underwater regions of Sardinia as well as other coastlines throughout Italy, resulting in incredible pink beaches.

A pink limestone shell protects Miniacina Miniacea. The walls of these shells are made up of calcite crystals embedded within an organic matrix, with chambers connecting to one another.

Small openings, known as foramina, appear and grow larger, with new chambers appearing on the original ones.

As this process takes place, a crevice appears, sometimes allowing the protozoan’s reticulopods to emerge.

Once the microorganisms complete their life cycle, the resulting pink-hued shells accumulate as sediment on the seafloor.

Ocean currents then carry these shells to the shore, bending with the sand. The result? A distinctive pink hue.

Protecting Sardinia’s Pink Beach

In the past, the pink sands of Spiaggia Rosa have come under threat, being defaced by vandals of biodiversity.

From the 1970s through to the 1990s, hordes of visitors came by boats, taking souvenirs in the form of the beach’s precious pink sand.

Over time, the beach lost its natural pink hue before park authorities closed the beach to the public in 1998 in the hope that nature would restore the beach to its former pink glory.

Ever since, there has been a protection order on the beach put in place by Maddalene Park. Therefore, swimming is prohibited, and boats can not transit or be anchored in the nearby waters.

Moreover, it is forbidden to collect, damage, or remove any rock formations, minerals, and concretions. This includes the pink sand. Visitors can not place any objects on the beach or trample the ground, either.

The protection order also forbids the following:

  • Scuba diving and fishing of any kind.
  • Bathing between the boundary buoys and beach line.
  • Any alteration of the ocean floor, as well as characteristics of the water (physical, chemical, and biological).
  • The introduction of substances that could change the characteristics of the marine environment.

Why is Sand Sometimes Purple?

Purple sand is very rare, but there are a few beaches that boast this extraordinary color.

One is Pfeiffer Beach in California. Renowned for its eggplant hue, attracting surfers, adventures, and photographers from all over the world.

Once again, quartz has a lot to do with this unique tone. Quartz grains blend with particles that emanate from rock erosion from nearby hills. These rocks contain a mineral known as
manganese garnet.

Particles of this mineral are washed down by rainwater, combining them with quartz grains found on the beach. These form purple patches of sand. When there is a particular heavy amount of rain, more purple areas appear.

In other regions of the world, sand grains mix with other colors, creating a purple-like color.

Together, these particles create purple-looking beaches, with one famous example being Plum Island Beach in Massachusetts, USA.

Final Thoughts

It is truly fascinating how geological processes can create incredible natural phenomena like the pink sand beach of Spiaggia Rosa.

While Sardinia only boasts one pink-sanded beach, the island features over 200 beaches where visitors can enjoy silky white sand and picture-perfect pebbly coastlines.

Whatever the color, Sardinia has coastal treasures waiting to be explored.

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