Open Access

Monitoring rocky-shore communities: a critical look at spatial and temporal variation

  • R. G. Hartnoll1 and
  • S. J. Hawkins1
Helgoländer Meeresuntersuchungen33:484


Increasingly programmes are being set up to monitor rocky-shore communities in order to provide baseline data which will indicate changes resulting from subsequent pollution. However, these efforts are complicated by several factors. Firstly, there are overall changes in the composition of communities both within and between years. Secondly, there is variation within certain communities due to a mosaic distribution of components, the mosaic format changing continuously with a cycle of several years. This paper reports on studies of a medium-exposed rocky shore in the Isle of Man (U. K.). It describes patterns of spatial and temporal variation, and looks at certain implications for monitoring programmes: (a) the frequency of sampling, and the duration of the sampling programme, in the light of seasonal and long-term variation; (b) the efficiency, in terms of the minimisation of variability, of sampling the same area by different strategies — belt transects, small random quadrats, single large quadrat; (c) the effect of the distribution patterns of some commoner species on the variation between samples.