Quantifying Spatial Patterns of Intertidal Biodiversity: Is Movement Important?


* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed. E-mail: icdavidson@eircom.net


Abstract.  Small-scale patterns of low-, mid- and high-shore intertidal species density, richness and abundance were systematically examined to assess the potential influence of ‘mobility’ on spatial community dynamics and diversity. Mobile taxa outnumbered sessile species by approximately 2:1, whereas sessile individuals were over 12 times as numerous as mobile ones over the entire study site. Patterns of density, richness and abundance differed with shore level and substratum. The results also highlighted the importance of clearly distinguishing between species density and species richness when examining spatially quantitative data. The rank order of habitats from highest to lowest species density was not the same when analysed in order of species richness. The potential for the mobile proportion of assemblages to influence small-scale diversity assessment through movement was greater at mid- and high-shore zones because the ratio of mobile species was higher and abundance (relative to the lower shore) was low. These observations might reflect the relative influence of the land–sea gradient of immersion on diversity and mobility in intertidal communities. The influence of mobile organisms on marine ecosystem function may be significant because small-scale patterns of movement are known to positively influence biodiversity. High richness paired with low abundance, however, may result in underestimating the functional role of mobile intertidal species.