Planktonic subsidies to surf-zone and intertidal communities

Steven G. Morgan, Alan L. Shanks, Jamie H. MacMahan, Ad J.H.M. Reniers, Falk Feddersen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleScientificpeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Plankton are transported onshore, providing subsidies of food and new recruits to surf-zone and intertidal communities. The transport of plankton to the surf zone is influenced by wind, wave, and tidal forcing, and whether they enter the surf zone depends on alongshore variation in surf-zone hydrodynamics caused by the interaction of breaking waves with coastal morphology. Areas with gently sloping shores and wide surf zones typically have orders-of-magnitude-higher concentrations of plankton in the surf zone and dense larval settlement in intertidal communities because of the presence of bathymetric rip currents, which are absent in areas with steep shores and narrow surf zones. These striking differences in subsidies have profound consequences; areas with greater subsidies support more productive surf-zone communities and possibly more productive rocky intertidal communities. Recognition of the importance of spatial subsidies for rocky community dynamics has recently advanced ecological theory, and incorporating surf-zone hydrodynamics would be an especially fruitful line of investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-369
Number of pages25
JournalAnnual Review of Marine Science
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2018


  • communities
  • hydrodynamics
  • larval recruitment
  • phytoplankton
  • subsidies
  • surf zone
  • zooplankton

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