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Wave-Swept Shore

Wave-Swept Shore: The Rigors of Life on a Rocky Coast

Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 189
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  • Book Info
    Wave-Swept Shore
    Book Description:

    Take a close look at a wave-battered coast and you will discover a rich, fascinating, and remarkably brutal environment. Here, animals and plants exposed to wind, sun, and rain at low tide must cope with crashing waves as the seas rise to submerge them each day at high tide. How do living things survive in this harsh zone? With 87 stunning color photographs and an engaging text written for those with little or no knowledge of marine biology or physics, this book tells the story of one stretch along the Pacific coast of North America-introducing the mussels, limpets, crabs, grasses, starfish, kelp, and other animals and plants that live there, and explaining how they function and flourish in an environment of waves, sand, and rocks. In pictures and words,Wave-Swept Shoreexplains complex phenomena, such as wave action, using simple, intuitive analogies. It explores how the forms of animals and plants affect their survival in this harsh environment, considers their distribution on the shore, and looks at their seasonal variations, focusing on what can be easily observed by visitors to the coast. Revealing the rich variety of habitats woven into what may at first look like a fairly uniform environment, the book, an effective and beautiful tool for learning about the edge of oceans everywhere, opens our eyes to the wonders of rocky shores and introduces a whole new way of looking at the natural world.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-92999-9
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xi)
    Anne Rosenfeld
    (pp. 1-27)

    We are creatures of the land. We view the ocean as a vast expanse of water stretching to the horizon at the edge of our world. We’ve been taught that the ocean is teeming with life, but for most of us that marine menagerie is hidden from view, except at the places where water meets land. At this junction of the terrestrial and aquatic realms, we find a fascinating collection of animals and plants¹ that face the challenges of both worlds: they are exposed to the rigors of wind, sun, and rain when the waters recede at low tide, but...

    (pp. 29-35)

    Why water? This book is about water and what it does to and for the living things on the shore. Animals and plants glued to coastal rocks risk being torn away by crashing waves, and yet they depend on the water moving around them to bring them oxygen and nutrients, to carry away their wastes, and to transport their offspring to new sites. When stranded in the air as water recedes at low tide, aquatic plants and animals on the shore may perish if they become too dry. Out of the protective bath of the sea, inhabitants of the intertidal...

  6. 3 WAVES
    (pp. 37-61)

    As we stand at the coast, hearing the thunder of wave on rock, watching the geysers of spray, it is easy to imagine that the creatures clinging to the shore are being battered by enormous forces. However, by carefully watching how water flows in waves moving across the complex terrain of a rocky coast, we learn where refuges of calm develop. A stretch of shore that appears to be exposed to a maelstrom of rushing water can actually harbor many animals and plants that are protected from the brunt of the waves.

    When we stare out to sea and watch...

    (pp. 63-97)

    When we venture onto the rocks at low tide, we find squishy sea anemones and floppy seaweeds clinging to the rocks alongside the well-armored barnacles and mussels (plate 33). The sleek, rigid profile of a limpet is very different from the lettucelike form of an alga, yet both of these body architectures function in this wave-swept world. How do such diverse living things withstand the hydrodynamic forces that threaten to wash them away? Biologists can unravel the mysteries of how plants and animals withstand crashing waves by borrowing techniques developed by engineers to analyze the mechanical performance of man-made structures....

    (pp. 99-121)

    How do animals glued to one spot on the shore forage for food? How do seaweeds, which do not have root systems, get their nutrients? How do the plants and animals stuck to the rocks breed if they can’t move around to find mates? How do they migrate to new habitats? The water swirling around them performs these life-sustaining functions. Even though the living things clinging to the shore are at risk of being swept away by waves and currents, they also depend on that moving water to bring them many of the things they need to live.

    Dissolved substances...

    (pp. 123-153)

    As waves wash over rocks at high tide, they bathe the plants and animals on the shore in the cool water of the ocean. A few hours later, at low tide, ebbing water leaves the sea creatures and algae to face the rigors of terrestrial life. We are well equipped to survive in air, with our waterproof skin and our ability to regulate our own body temperature. In contrast, marine plants and animals without these capabilities can perish if stranded in air too long without the protective buffering of seawater. On sunny days, inhabitants of the intertidal can overheat or...

  10. 7 CHANGES
    (pp. 155-167)

    The rocky-shore environment changes with time. Waves swash back and forth every few seconds, exposing animals and plants on the rocks to transient pulses of force. Clouds blow across the sky and hide the sun every few minutes, providing brief respites from the heat. In the span of hours, tides rise and fall, the fog burns off and rolls back in, and day fades into night. Calm mornings give way to blustery afternoons. The weather changes from one day to the next as storms hit the coast and then move on.

    Over the course of a month, the tides wax...

    (pp. 169-172)

    Step back and contemplate this site where the ocean meets the land. Our understanding of a place like this is easily biased by the spatial scale at which we humans experience it. However, if we approach the natural world around us armed with a handful of physical principles and a willingness to imagine the experiences of creatures of different sizes, we can recognize the rich tapestry of habitats woven into a single site. We can appreciate the specific challenges to survival in each spot and understand many of the mechanisms that enable creatures to persist in the face of those...

  12. Additional Reading
    (pp. 173-174)
  13. Index
    (pp. 175-179)