ambience ocean waves. birds
On a coastline, the intertidal zone – where land meets water – is home to a variety of organisms that can survive both in and out of water for extended periods of time. But as hardy and adaptable as it may seem, it’s a surprisingly fragile ecosystem. I’m Jim Metzner, and this is the Pulse of the Planet.
“These things covering the rock are red algae, and then there are spots covering the rocks that look like tar that are, in fact, another algal species. So, all of this is living.”
Fiorenza Micheli is an assistant Professor of Biological Sciences at Stanford University.
“Most people coming here and seeing this green mass covered in shells would think that this is not a living animal, and, in fact, one of the problems that we are studying here is the effects that visitors to the shores could have on these organisms.”
“Visitors come down, walk around. A lot of what covers the rock at low tides looks inanimate, and, in fact, everything is living. And just by stepping on animals and plants we can damage them, and we are seeing that, in fact, thatâ€™s the case, that there is long lasting effects of trampling.”
“The most fragile communities are those found on exposed rocky points. We hypothesized that those communities would be, in fact, more resistant because theyâ€™re already affected by waves and other disturbances, so they would be more resistant. But, in fact, what we found is that they’re already, in a way, pushed to their limits by nature. And so, even a small additional disturbance like walking on them causes mussels to detach from the rocks and anemone to lose their attachment to the rocks. And, in some cases, it can take over two years for these animals to come back.”
We’ll hear more on tide pools and the intertidal zone in future programs. Pulse of the Planet is made possible by the National Science Foundation. I’m Jim Metzner.