Driftwood is wood that has been washed onto a shore or beach of a sea or river by the action of winds, tides, waves or man. In some waterfront areas, driftwood is a major nuisance. But not for the collectors and artistically inclined. However, the driftwood provides shelter and food for birds, fish and other aquatic species as it floats in the ocean. Gribbles, shipworms and bacteria decompose the wood and gradually turn it into nutrients that are reintroduced to the food web. Sometimes, the partially decomposed wood washes ashore, where it also shelters birds, plants, and other species. Driftwood can become the foundation for sand dunes.
Burning driftwood can produce polychlorinated dibenzodioxins (PCDDs), which are carcinogenic. For this reason burning driftwood is not recommended. The formation of PCDDs is well documented when organic compounds are combusted in the presence of chlorine, which is present in driftwood as a result of soaking in seawater.