Fifteen degrees of separation: Latitudinal gradients of rocky intertidal biota along the California Current

Schoch, G. Carl, Bruce A. Menge, Gary Allison, Maria Kavanaugh, Sarah Ann Thompson, Spencer A. Wood

Limnol. Oceanogr., 51(6), 2006, 2564-2585 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2006.51.6.2564

ABSTRACT: The region of the eastern North Pacific coastline dominated by the California Current was surveyed annually from 2001-2003 to examine (1) benthic macro-invertebrate and algal populations, (2) the magnitude and patterns of key environmental variables, and (3) how dynamic populations and communities of macroalgae and invertebrates respond to spatial differences in nearshore geomorphology, wave dynamics, and oceanography of the coastal shelf. We used a highly replicated spatially nested sampling design consisting of 144 shore segments (bedrock platforms longer than 50 m) with three replicate segments per site (~1 km), three sites per area (~10 km), and sixteen areas (>10 km) grouped into six domains (hundreds of kilometers). Results suggest that (1) low zone diversity was higher at northern latitudes when measured at segment, site, and area scales, but at domain scales there were more species at southern latitudes; (2) community structure showed high fidelity to geographic location with community similarity inversely related to separation distance, and the only regional scale biological discontinuity in community structure was centered near Pt. Conception; and (3) wave runup was the most significant physical parameter affecting overall community structure, however, tidal range, precipitation, air and water temperature, upwelling, salinity, and sand were significant mechanisms forcing differences in community structure within the region.

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