Small-scale spatial structuring of interstitial invertebrates on three embayed beaches, Sydney, Australia

Belinda C. Cooke*, Ian D. Goodwin, Melanie J. Bishop

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


An understanding of ecological processes hinges upon an understanding of the spatial structuring of their key biotic components. Interstitial invertebrates are a ubiquitous and ecologically important component of sandy beach ecosystems. As many sandy beach taxa have limited dispersal, it may be expected that their populations exhibit a high degree of spatial structuring, yet the spatial scales across which they display baseline variability remain largely unknown. To assess (1) whether interstitial invertebrates display patchiness on embayed sandy beaches, (2) whether the size of patches they form is consistent across three geographically proximal beaches, (3) the key environmental correlates of this variation and (4) its taxonomic dependence, samples were collected at regular (0.5m) intervals along 15m long geomorphically similar stretches of three proximal intermediate beaches and analyses of spatial autocorrelation were conducted. On each of the three beaches, interstitial invertebrate communities formed patches of 2-4.5m in diameter. Spatial structuring of invertebrate communities was driven by harpacticoid copepods and gastrotrichs, and corresponded to spatial structuring of sediments. Sediments, however, explained only 33% of spatial variation in faunal communities, indicating the importance of other abiotic and/or biotic factors. Our study highlights that even on seemingly homogeneous sandy beaches, faunal communities may display considerable small-scale spatial structuring. Examination of spatial structure may lead to a greater understanding of the ecological processes in this system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-101
Number of pages10
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
Issue numberPA
Publication statusPublished - 5 Oct 2014


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