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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 433:65-74 (2011)  -  DOI:

Annual cycle of wrack supply to sandy beaches: effect of the physical environment

F. Barreiro*, M. Gómez, M. Lastra, J. López, R. de la Huz

Departamento de Ecoloxía e Bioloxía Animal, Facultade de Ciencias, Universidade de Vigo, 36310 Vigo, Spain

ABSTRACT: Connectivity between ecosystems has been widely recognised as an important issue in ecological studies. Sandy beaches are very dynamic and open ecosystems, mainly supported by allochthonous subsidies of stranded organic matter (mostly macroalgae), also termed wrack supply. The magnitude and composition of algal wrack biomass throughout the annual cycle was assessed for 6 sandy beaches on the Galician coast, NW Spain. The effect of wave action and the topographical features of each beach in the wrack deposition process were investigated. Wrack species composition, biomass and coverage were measured monthly along 6 transects at each beach. Mean dry weight of wrack fluctuated from 14 ± 5.3 to 9189 ± 3594 g m–1 (along transects) between locations. Wrack was predominantly composed of brown algae, which accounted for 70% of the average biomass year round; the dominant species were Cystoseira sp. (30.3 ± 17.4%) and Sargassum muticum (14.2 ± 7.1%). A cyclical pattern in wrack composition, coupled with the life cycle of the predominant macroalgae, was observed. Wrack biomass and species composition were mostly explained by wave height and the ratio of beach length to beach area. Small, wave-sheltered beaches received the largest inputs of wrack, and had the lowest relative contribution of brown algae. These results provide evidence that variability in wrack supply on sandy beaches can be explained through interactions between wave exposure, coastal topography and seasonality.

KEY WORDS: Connectivity · Marine–terrestrial ecotone · NW Spain · Sandy beaches · Spatial subsidy · Wave exposure · Wrack

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Cite this article as: Barreiro F, Gómez M, Lastra M, López J, de la Huz R (2011) Annual cycle of wrack supply to sandy beaches: effect of the physical environment. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 433:65-74.

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