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Article << Previous     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 64(2)

Environmental control of community organisation on ocean-exposed sandy beaches

Thomas A. Schlacher A B and Luke Thompson A

A Faculty of Science, Health & Education, University of the Sunshine Coast, Maroochydore DC, Qld 4558, Australia.
B Corresponding author. Email: tschlach@usc.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 64(2) 119-129 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/MF12172
Submitted: 29 June 2012  Accepted: 21 December 2012   Published: 25 February 2013

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Models of faunal communities on open-coast beaches emphasise the primacy of environmental conditions in determining species richness and abundance. What remains unresolved under this ‘physical-control paradigm’ includes the following two aspects: (1) how habitat properties relate to structural traits of communities; and (2) how environmental conditions shape communities when habitat properties change over time. Here, we test these by modelling the relationship between a broad range of environmental drivers and assemblage structure. Our models draw on a sizeable dataset (15 600 cores collected over 4 years) of benthic invertebrates from beaches in eastern Australia; we also include a test of whether human disturbance (vehicles) alters the relationships between environmental predictors and faunal communities. A suite of physical factors, comprising habitat features (i.e. moisture level, grain size, beach slope) and wave parameters, explained variation in community structure. Novel aspects are the role of sea-surface temperature (SST) as a driver of biological structure on beaches, and that human impacts can override the sediment–animal relationships that are normally important. More generally, theoretical and empirical models of beach-community organisation should incorporate multiple environmental drivers, include broader structural aspect of assemblages, and recognise the role of human habitat alterations in shaping these fauna–environment links.

Additional keywords: environmental drivers, human impacts, invertebrates.


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