Intertidal community structure and oceanographic patterns around Santa Cruz Island, CA, USA

Carol A. Blanchette, Bernardo R. Broitman, Steven D. Gaines

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

85 Scopus citations


Recent studies suggest that nearshore oceanographic conditions can have important effects on the structure of benthic communities. On Santa Cruz Island (SCI), CA, USA there is a persistent difference in mean annual sea surface temperature (SST) around the island due to its location at the confluence of opposing cold and warm ocean current systems. Over the course of a 4-year study (1997-2001) seawater nutrient and chl-a concentrations, algal tissue C:N ratios, recruitment and growth of filter-feeders (barnacles and mussels), and intertidal community structure were measured at six intertidal sites around the island. There were strong associations between remotely sensed SST and patterns of community structure. Macrophyte abundance was highest at sites with persistently low SST, while recruitment, abundance, and growth of filter-feeding invertebrates were strongly, positively correlated with SST. The cold-water sites were associated with higher nutrient concentrations and lower algal C:N ratios, particularly in the winter months. Values of chl-a were generally low and variable among sites, and were not correlated with the predominant SST gradient. Recruitment of barnacles and mussels was positively correlated with adult abundance across all sites. While detailed experimental studies are needed to further evaluate the mechanisms underlying community dynamics, these results indicate that the confluence of cold- and warm-water masses around SCI may determine the contrasting patterns of intertidal community structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)689-701
Number of pages13
JournalMarine Biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2006


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