Prediction of benthic community structure from environmental variables in a soft-sediment tidal basin (North Sea)


The relationship between benthos data and environmental data in 308 samples collected from the intertidal zone of the Hörnum tidal basin (German Wadden Sea) was analyzed. The environmental variables were current velocity, wave action, emersion time (all of which were obtained from a 2-year simulation with a numerical model) and four sediment grain-size parameters. A grouping of sample stations into five benthos clusters showed a large-scale (>1 km) zoning of benthic assemblages on the tidal flats. The zoning varied with the distance from the shore. Three sample applications were examined to test the predictability of the benthic community structure based on environmental variables. In each application, the dataset was spatially partitioned into a training set and a test set. Predictions of benthic community structure in the test sets were attempted using a multinomial logistic regression model. Applying hydrodynamic predictors, the model performed significantly better than it did when sediment predictors were applied. The accuracy of model predictions, given by Cohen’s kappa, varied between 0.14 and 0.49. The model results were consistent with independently attained evidence of the important role of physical factors in Wadden Sea tidal flat ecology.
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