Mapping microhabitat thermal patterns in artificial breakwaters: Alteration of intertidal biodiversity by higher rock temperature

Moisés A. Aguilera, René M. Arias, Tatiana Manzur

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Urbanization is altering community structure and functioning in marine ecosystems, but knowledge about the mechanisms driving loss of species diversity is still limited. Here, we examine rock thermal patterns in artificial breakwaters and test whether they have higher and spatially less variable rock temperature than natural adjacent habitats, which corresponds with lower biodiversity patterns. We estimated rock temperatures at mid-high intertidal using infrared thermography during mid-day in summer, in both artificial (Rip-raps) and natural (boulder fields) habitats. We also conducted diurnal thermal surveys (every 4 hr) in four seasons at one study site. Concurrent sampling of air and seawater temperature, wind velocity, and topographic structure of habitats were considered to explore their influence on rock temperature. Rock temperature was in average 3.7°C higher in the artificial breakwater in two of the three study sites, while air temperature was about 1.5–4°C higher at this habitat at summer. Thermal patterns were more homogeneous across the artificial habitat. Lower species abundance and richness in the artificial breakwaters were associated with higher rock temperature. Mechanism underlying enhanced substrate temperature in the artificial structures seems related to their lower small-scale spatial heterogeneity. Our study thus highlighted that higher rock temperature in artificial breakwaters can contribute to loss of biodiversity and that integrated artificial structures may alter coastal urban microclimates, a matter that should be considered in the spatial planning of urban coastal ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)12915-12927
Number of pages13
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number22
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2019


  • artificial breakwaters
  • boulder fields
  • coastal microclimate
  • rocky intertidal
  • thermal patterns
  • urbanization


Dive into the research topics of 'Mapping microhabitat thermal patterns in artificial breakwaters: Alteration of intertidal biodiversity by higher rock temperature'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this