Evaluation of effective shore level as a method of characterizing intertidal wave exposure regimes

Sarah E. Gilman, Christopher D.G. Harley, Denise C. Strickland, Olivier Vanderstraeten, Michael J. O'Donnell,Brian Helmuth

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 4:448-457 (2006) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2006.4.448

ABSTRACT: Wave splash modifies the duration and timing of aerial exposure of intertidal organisms, influencing patterns of vertical zonation, thermal stress, and the consequences of climate change. Harley and Helmuth (Limnol. Oceanogr. 48:1498-1508, 2003) described a method for measuring effective shore level (ESL), a metric that combines the influence of wave splash and tidal regime on patterns of emersion and immersion. They identified immersion events as sharp drops in temperature recorded by submersible dataloggers and compared the tide height at the time of the temperature drop to the wave height recorded by an offshore buoy. Here we explore the generality of this method at 10 sites along the Pacific coast of North America spanning 14° of latitude. We deployed miniature temperature loggers at fixed intertidal heights at each site and recorded temperatures at intervals of 5 to 15 min for periods of up to 5 years. We use these data to explore the effects of different approaches to calculating temperature drops and wave heights, as well as variation in the buoy location, on ESL calculations. We present a software program (SiteParser) that can be used to identify temperature drops in a datalogger time series and also calculate daily and monthly summary statistics of temperature. We show that ESL parameters provide a useful metric for comparing the effects of wave action on immersion patterns within sites. We also introduce a metric of average wave run-up that can be used to compare the effect of wave action on immersion patterns among more distant locations.