, Volume 158, Issue 10, pp 2149-2160
Date: 21 May 2011

Physiological tolerance predicts species composition at different scales in a barnacle guild

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This study examined how the species composition of an intertidal barnacle guild varied according to physical gradients in the environment at small scales governed by microclimates, medium scales of wave exposure and large scales of latitude. Barnacle distributions at small and medium scales were sampled in Ireland between 51°29′ and 52°44′N and 6°50′ and 10°08′W. Sampling on European shores spanned ~18° latitude from 37°05′ to 55°16′N. Barnacle surveys mainly took place in 2003–2004. An index of wave fetch was calculated along the wave exposure gradient using a digital coastline-based model that was supported by a biological exposure scale. A ‘dryness’ index was defined according to mean monthly wind speed, fetch along the average wind direction and mean monthly air or sea surface temperatures for 2 years (January 2001–December 2002) which is the period when the most recent adults in the barnacle community would have settled and grown to adulthood. The proportion of the dry-loving barnacle Chthamalus montagui Southward increased within the barnacle guild at all scales as the habitat became warmer and drier. Barnacle densities were high in all habitats, mean densities ranged from a minimum of 4.16 cm−2 on moderately exposed shores to a maximum of 6.27 cm−2 in sunlit or south-facing microclimates. Percentage cover of barnacles across the gradient of latitudes was usually >70%. The results suggest that the distribution and abundance of interacting barnacle species on European coasts is strongly controlled by abiotic factors, most likely temperature and desiccation.

Communicated by S. D. Connell.