Living with Change: Response of the Sea Floor to Natural Events
Michael E. Field
Abstract. Natural events are critical factors in determining the character of benthic habitats. All of the characteristics that we identify in habitats are shaped by continuous, chronic processes or by intermittent, more intense processes (“events”), and to a lesser degree, by rare, extreme events. Particle size and sorting, chemical alterations, oxygen and organic carbon content, and many more properties are a time-averaged response to floods, waves, currents, seepage, and numerous other processes. Disturbances that occur on an intermediate scale (in frequency or relative intensity) are recognized by some as a major contributor to community diversity. Disturbances that occur on extreme scales generally do not have a lasting deleterious effect. The greatest potential for negative impacts to habitats occurs when there is an increase in the intensity or frequency of a process, and this includes many human-induced activities.