MEPS - Vol. 342 - Feature article

Atlantic coast of Nova Scotia at low tide. Photo: R. Scrosati

Scrosati R, Heaven C

 

Spatial trends in community richness, diversity, and evenness across rocky intertidal environmental stress gradients in eastern Canada

 

Scrosati & Heaven investigated spatial trends in community diversity across vertical and horizontal environmental stress gradients (elevation vs. wave/ice exposure) in rocky intertidal habitats. Because of harsh winter conditions, these shores feature high stress levels at high elevations, and on wave-exposed and ice-scoured areas. Mathematical models have rarely been tested across full local gradients in nature; in this study, diversity was always negatively related to elevation, thus matching predictions. Across horizontal stress gradients, however, diversity showed opposite trends, depending on the occurrence of ice scour; variation in diversity components (richness and evenness) explained these opposing patterns. Understanding the relationship between community diversity and environmental stress is central in ecology, and knowledge on diversity–stress relationships will improve by simultaneously investigating diversity, richness, and evenness trends.

 

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