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Keywords:

  • Diel movement;
  • environmental variables;
  • Pacific Northwest;
  • sandy beach;
  • species composition;
  • surf-zone

Abstract

Sandy beach/surf-zone ecosystems are unique environments that, despite the harsh and highly variable hydrodynamic conditions, present a diverse and heterogeneous fauna. However, the dynamics of these ecosystems are currently poorly understood. In this study we tested the hypothesis that surf-zone assemblages vary with temporal factors such as time of day, tide and tidal height. To test this hypothesis, the surf-zone community of Bastendorff, a Southern Oregon sandy beach was sampled during the summer of 2006. Samples were collected to (i) describe the smaller, benthic and larger swimming assemblages, (ii) determine whether assemblage compositions, densities, species richness and diversity vary with time of day, tide and tidal height, (iii) explore potential reasons for the variation by correlating environmental factors to the assemblages, and (iv) identify particular species that most strongly exhibit these variations. A hyperbenthic sledge, a sediment corer and a beach seine were used to collect the smaller swimming, benthic and larger swimming fauna, respectively. Sampling occurred during day and night, spring and neap tide, and high, mid and low tide. A total of 76,743 individuals belonging to 105 species were collected. Ninety-one invertebrate (72,904 individuals), 15 invertebrates (2234 individuals), and 19 invertebrate and vertebrate species (1605 individuals) were collected with the sledge, corer and seine, respectively. Nine species of fish were caught, 98% of which were juveniles. The smaller and larger swimming assemblages varied most strongly with the time of day, suggesting certain species will actively move to the shallow surf-zone at night. The three assemblages also varied with the tide, potentially due to the larger waves and higher abundance of detached macrophytes observed during spring tides when compared to neap tides, which could push individuals into the surf zone. The benthic assemblage most strongly varied with tidal height and sand grain size, confirming the presence of different faunal zones within Oregon sandy beaches. Finally, several variables of the swimming assemblages varied with temperature and salinity, suggesting that downwelling favorable conditions may have transported species close to shore. Bastendorff presents a complex and diverse surf-zone community that appears to be influenced by diel species movements, environmental variables such as wave height and abundance of detached macrophytes, and regional oceanographic conditions.