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Patterns of distribution of marine assemblages from rocky shores: evidence of relevant scales of variation
Fraschetti, S.; Terlizzi, A.; Benedetti-Cecchi, L. (2005). Patterns of distribution of marine assemblages from rocky shores: evidence of relevant scales of variation. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. 296: 13-29
In: Marine Ecology Progress Series. Inter-Research: Oldendorf/Luhe. ISSN 0171-8630, more
Peer reviewed article  

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    Distribution; Rocky shores; Marine

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  • Fraschetti, S., more
  • Terlizzi, A., more
  • Benedetti-Cecchi, L., more

    Increasing evidence indicates that spatial and temporal patterns in ecological systemsare not independent of the scale of measurement. In this study we used a hierarchical samplingdesign to examine spatial patterns in assemblages of algae and invertebrates in midshore and lowshorehabitats of rocky coasts in the Mediterranean Sea, increasing the range of scales usually coveredby this type of study in marine habitats. To put our results in a broader context, we also conducteda review of the literature, targeting studies that explicitly investigated spatial patterns withhierarchical designs. We addressed 2 main questions: (1) To what extent does small-scale variabilitycontribute to large-scale patterns of variation? (2) Is there a pattern of variability that can be generalisedacross species and habitats? The review of the literature indicated that hierarchical analyses ofspatial pattern have been limited to a narrow range of habitats and taxa and that very few studieshave addressed regional scales of variation (1000s of kilometers). The available data, however, dididentify a general pattern: variability was larger at small spatial scales (meters) in almost all habitats,whereas variation over larger spatial scales (10s to 100s of kilometers) depended on the specific habitatand taxa examined. In our case study, we obtained measures of spatial variability through the useof 2 alternative methods: hierarchical nested design and independent estimate of spatial variancebetween pairs of quadrats. Both approaches provided further support to the patterns displayed by theanalysis of the literature. Most response variables exhibited large variation over small spatial scales,while the significance of mid- to large-scale variability differed between midshore and lowshorehabitats and among taxa. Although a proper understanding of large-scale patterns will require additionalcomparisons across wide geographical areas, small-scale variability emerges as a generalproperty of benthic assemblages in marine coastal habitats. We suggest that this pattern is commonto a wide range of natural systems where assemblages are influenced by complex sets of physical andbiological processes like those operating in the marine environment.

  • Benthos of Greece, more

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