Scientia Marina, Vol 74, No 1 (2010)

Rocky intertidal macrobenthic communities across a large-scale estuarine gradient

Luis Giménez
Sección Oceanología, Facultad de Ciencias , Uruguay

School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, LL59 5AB, Menai Bridge, UK

Ana Inés Borthagaray
Sección Oceanología, Facultad de Ciencias , Uruguay

Instituto de Ecología y Biodiversidad, Chile. Departamento de Ecología and Centro de Estudios Avanzados en Ecología y Biodiversidad, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile.

Marcel Rodríguez
Sección Oceanología, Facultad de Ciencias , Uruguay

Alejandro Brazeiro
Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias , Uruguay

Alvar Carranza
Sección Oceanología, Facultad de Ciencias , Uruguay

UNDECIMAR, Facultad de Ciencias, Uruguay


We evaluated relationships between (1) salinity and species richness and (2) frontal zones and community structure for the rocky intertidal macrobenthic community of the Uruguayan coast. A large-scale sampling design (extent ~500 km) covering 9 rocky shores across 3 intertidal levels was performed between September and November 2002. The linear relationship between salinity and species richness (minimum at the freshwater extreme) and the lack of correlation between variation in salinity and richness rejected two previous empirical models, explaining variations in species richness along the salinity gradient. Other factors (e.g. turbidity) may explain this discrepancy. The estuarine front defined two communities—freshwater and estuarine-marine—differing in species composition and richness. The freshwater community was characterised by low richness and few individuals confined to crevices or tide pools, and must be structured by physical processes (e.g. desiccation); the estuarine-marine community, with individuals occupying almost all available substrata, must be structured by both physical and biological processes. A marine front, separating estuarine and marine habitats, had a weak effect on community structure although estuarine and marine assemblages differed according to species characterising different functional groups. We conclude that the position of the estuarine frontal zones is important for explaining large-scale patterns of community structure in the study area.


community structure; diversity; estuaries; scale; front

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