Structural complexity and component type increase intertidal biodiversity independently of area

Lynette H. L. Loke, Peter A. Todd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Citations (Scopus)


Complexity is well accepted as one of the primary drivers of biodiversity, however, empirical support for such positive associations is often confounded with surface area and undermined by other potential explanatory factors, especially the type of structural component (e.g., pits, crevices, overhangs, etc.). In the present study, sample units (artificial substrates) of equal surface area (±0.2%) were used to simultaneously examine the independent effects of complexity and different structural component types on species richness (S), abundance (N), and community composition. We created simple and complex concrete substrates of four different geometric designs using novel software. The substrates (n = 8) were mounted onto granite seawalls (at two tidal heights) on two islands south of Singapore Island. After 13 months of colonization, all 384 tiles were collected and their assemblages compared. A total of 53 744 individuals of 70 species/morphospecies were collected and identified. Our results show that greater complexity can support greater species richness and different communities that are independent of surface area. Furthermore, the type of structure (e.g., "pits," "grooves," "towers") can have an effect on richness and community composition that is independent of complexity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)383-393
Number of pages11
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • artificial substrates
  • biodiversity
  • habitat complexity
  • heterogeneity
  • niche breadth
  • reconciliation ecology resource partitioning
  • seawalls
  • species–area relationship
  • topography


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