Population Ecology

, Volume 59, Issue 4, pp 301–313 | Cite as

Seasonal changes in community structure along a vertical gradient: patterns and processes in rocky intertidal sessile assemblages

  • Yuki Kanamori
  • Keiichi Fukaya
  • Takashi Noda
Original article


Here we considered two fundamental questions in community ecology regarding the relationship between seasonal changes in community structure and environmental gradients: (i) How does the magnitude of seasonal changes in community structure vary along an environmental gradient? (ii) How do the processes driving seasonal changes in community structure vary along an environmental gradient? To examine these questions, we investigated intertidal sessile assemblages inhabiting a notable vertical environmental gradient and fitted a transition probability matrix model to decadal time series data gathered at 25 plots along the Pacific coast of eastern Hokkaido, Japan. We found that the magnitude of seasonal changes in community structure was the largest at mid shore. The major processes driving seasonal changes in community structure changed vertically, reflecting the indirect influence of vertical changes in the physical environment on the vertical distributions of species. An unexpected finding was that the magnitude of seasonal changes in community structure did not reflect the strength of seasonal variation in the physical environment. One explanation may be that sessile organisms living on the high shore have a broad tolerance to environmental stress and are thus less sensitive to the large seasonal variation in physical stress.


Eigenvector sensitivity analysis Environmental gradient Physical disturbance Seasonality Transition probability matrix model 



We thank Dr T. Takada for his mathematical advice. We also thank the many researchers and students who assisted in data collection in the field. This study was made possible by the generous support and encouragement of local fishermen and the fishery office of the Fishermen’s Cooperative Association in Hokkaido. This research was supported by JSPS KAKENHI grants (nos. 20570012, 24570012, and 15K07208 to TN). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.

Author contribution

YK originally formulated the idea, YK and KF performed statistical analyses, and YK and TN wrote the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10144_2017_596_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (402 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 401 KB)


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Copyright information

© The Society of Population Ecology and Springer Japan KK 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Graduate School of Environmental ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan
  2. 2.The Institute of Statistical MathematicsTachikawaJapan
  3. 3.Faculty of Environmental Earth ScienceHokkaido UniversitySapporoJapan

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