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Consistent patterns of spatial variability between NE Atlantic and Mediterranean rocky shores

  • Martina Dal Bello (a1) (a2), Jean-Charles Leclerc (a3) (a4) (a5), Lisandro Benedetti-Cecchi (a1), Giuseppe Andrea De Lucia (a6), Christos Arvanitidis (a7), Pim Van Avesaath (a8), Guy Bachelet (a9), Natalia Bojanic (a10), Serena Como (a6), Stefania Coppa (a6), Jennifer Coughlan (a11), Tasman Crowe (a11), Steven Degraer (a12), Free Espinosa (a13), Sarah Faulwetter (a7), Matt Frost (a14), Xabier Guinda (a15), Emilia Jankowska (a16), Jérôme Jourde (a17), Jose Antonio Juanes De La Pena (a15), Francis Kerckhof (a12), Jonne Kotta (a18), Nicolas Lavesque (a9), Paolo Magni (a6), Valentina De Matos (a19) (a20), Helen Orav-Kotta (a18), Christina Pavloudi (a6), Maria Luiza Pedrotti (a21), Ohad Peleg (a22), Angel Pérez-Ruzafa (a23), Araceli Puente (a15), Pedro Ribeiro (a19) (a20), Fabienne Rigaut-Jalabert (a2) (a3), Gil Rilov (a22), Maria Rousou (a24), Marcos Rubal (a25) (a26), Tomas Ruginis (a27), Teresa Silva (a28), Nathalie Simon (a2) (a3), Isabel Sousa-Pinto (a26), Jesús Troncoso (a26), Jan Warzocha (a29), Jan Marcin Weslawski (a16) and Herman Hummel (a8)...


Examining how variability in population abundance and distribution is allotted among different spatial scales can inform of processes that are likely to generate that variability. Results of studies dealing with scale issues in marine benthic communities suggest that variability is concentrated at small spatial scales (from tens of centimetres to few metres) and that spatial patterns of variation are consistent across ecosystems characterized by contrasting physical and biotic conditions, but this has not been formally tested. Here we quantified the variability in the distribution of intertidal rocky shore communities at a range of spatial scales, from tens of centimetres to thousands of kilometres, both in the NE Atlantic and the Mediterranean, and tested whether the observed patterns differed between the two basins. We focused on canopy-forming macroalgae and associated understorey assemblages in the low intertidal, and on the distribution of Patella limpets at mid intertidal levels. Our results highlight that patterns of spatial variation, at each scale investigated, were consistent between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, suggesting that similar ecological processes operate in these regions. In contrast with former studies, variability in canopy cover, species richness and limpet abundance was equally distributed among spatial scales, possibly reflecting the fingerprint of multiple processes. Variability in community structure of low intertidal assemblages, instead, peaked at the largest scale, suggesting that oceanographic processes and climatic gradients may be important. We conclude that formal comparisons of variability across scales nested in contrasting systems are needed, before any generalization on patterns and processes can be made.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: M. Dal Bello, Department of Biology, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy email:


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