MEPS - Vol. 353 - Feature article

The composition of rocky shore communities (left) along coastlines can be predicted directly from GIS-based wave fetch indices (right). Image: M.T. Burrows

Burrows MT, Harvey R, Robb L

 

Wave exposure indices from digital coastlines and the prediction of rocky shore community structure

 

Species composition of rocky shore communities is profoundly influenced by wave exposure, to the extent that assemblage structure is often used as diagnostic of prevailing physical conditions. Burrows and co-workers have developed a rapid method of determining wave fetch for grid-based representations of coastlines. By comparing different exposure indices with survey data for a large number of sites in western and northern Scotland, they found that wave fetch alone explained a large proportion of the variability in rocky shore communities. Combined with freely available digital coastline data, the approach should find global application in both mapping coastal resources and helping to separate biological and physical influences on coastline biodiversity.

 

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