Aquascope Facts
Cliff and rocky beach ecology
Forest of oakweed
Sugar kelp can build underwater forests that are about half a metre tall - if it is not subjected to powerful wave action. In such areas, oakweed builds underwater forests.


It is obvious that living conditions vary greatly from place to place and at different times. The four environmental gradients that can have an effect on organisms are:
  • The vertical gradient from sea to land.
  • The horizontal gradient from little to great wave exposure.
  • The substrate gradient from foundations of small to large particles.
  • Salinity gradient from low to high salt content.
        Different beaches are on different levels concerning all of these gradients and conditions can change in the same area on a regular or irregular and long term basis. All this make beach conditions very different and that each beach is unique.
        In this section though, we are concentrating on cliffs and rocky beaches. We will try to briefly describe and explain some of the factors that are important and to enable a better understanding of how it is to live amongst cliffs and rocks and what effects the distribution of organisms. Notice how the different environmental gradients interact with each other and how it is difficult to discuss one gradient without taking into account another.
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  • Cliffs and rocks are fantastic!
    Zoning and flecked occurrence
    Animals that are attached
    Modular construction
    Variation and change
    Variations in water level
    Wave exposure
    Both cliffs and rocks
    Freshwater and saltwater
    Geography, climate and history
    Organisms life cycles
    Organisms effect on each other
    Energy and the flow of material

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    © Aquascope 2000   Tjärnö Marine Biological Laboratory, Strömstad, Sweden
    Bo Johannesson | Martin Larsvik | Lars-Ove Loo | Helena Samuelsson