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Effects of topography on the environment

  • A.C. Jackson (a1)


Greater understanding of patterns of distributions of organisms and their causal mechanisms are required if the consequences of climatic change are to be fully realized. Associations between topographic features of the environment and distributions of organisms are frequently assumed to be a consequence of provision or modification of local conditions by those features. Such assumptions are rarely supported empirically and there is increasing evidence that topographic features do not always influence variables in the way we might anticipate. Thus, data about how features of habitat influence environmental conditions, including availability of food, are likely to be useful for understanding how and why organisms are found where they are. Such data are few and rigorous descriptions about what defines particular features of habitat are seldom provided or are simplistic. For hard substrata in aquatic environments, crevices are often prominent features with which many species associate. Crevices have frequently been assumed, but not demonstrated, to ameliorate conditions by increasing humidity, moderating (usually reducing) temperatures and by decreasing forces from wave-impacts and water-flow. This study provided clear definitions and tests of various hypotheses about how crevices altered the local environment. The main predictions were that crevices would be cooler, more humid, more sheltered from water-movement and support more micro-algae than areas away from crevices. Manipulative experiments using artificial habitats and measurements on natural rocky shores were carried out on multiple shores over two years to understand how crevices affected local conditions. Crevices were indeed cooler, more humid, supported more micro-algae and more sheltered from water-flow than open areas nearby, but conditions did not always vary in ways that were expected. Effects were often complex, with factors such as season, height on the shore and tidal conditions interacting to influence how crevices affect environmental conditions. Without this detailed information, assumptions about the reasons animals associate with features of habitat cannot be tested.


Corresponding author

Correspondence should be addressed to: A.C. Jackson, Environmental Research Centre, North Highland College UHI Millennium Institute, Castle Street, Thurso, Caithness, KW14 7JD, UK email:


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Effects of topography on the environment

  • A.C. Jackson (a1)


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