, Volume 72, Issue 2, pp 226-232

The influence of coastal upwelling on the functional structure of rocky intertidal communities

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Relationships between organisms at all trophic levels are influenced by the primary productivity of the ecosystem, and factors which enhance rates of primary production may modify trophic relationships and community structure. Nutrient enrichment of intertidal and nearshore waters leads to enhanced production by intertidal algae, and it was hypothesized that where rocky shores are washed by nutrient-rich upwelled waters, the intertidal communities should show a characteristic functional structure, based on the effects of enhanced primary production. Study sites were chosen on rocky shores in southern Africa, central Chile and the Canary Islands, in areas with and without coastal upwelling, and mid-shore community structure at these sites was analysed in terms of the abundance of certain functional guilds of organisms.

It was found that algal cover and the biomass of herbivorous limpets supported per unit area on rocky shores were significantly greater in regions of coastal upwelling than in regions where upwelling did not occur. Ground cover by sessile filter-feeding organisms was significantly greater on shores in non-upwelled areas. However, correspondence analysis showed no functional aspect of intertidal community structure that was characteristic of coasts washed by upwelled waters. Primary reasons for this are probably the large variations in the nature of nutrient enrichment that accompanies upwelling, and in the nutrient status of non-upwelled areas. Other factors are man's exploitation of intertidal organisms and differences in the genetic origins of the intertidal species involved.