Publication Date

Summer 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences


Shannon Bros-Seemann


benthic, Elkhorn Slough, functional guild, heterogeneity, size

Subject Areas



Changes in particle size of sediment as a result of erosion can have potential impacts on benthic community structure. To examine the potential impacts, a 2x2 factorial design was used to evaluate the effects of particle size and particle heterogeneity on the intertidal community structure of Elkhorn Slough using data provided by Moss Landing Marine Laboratories. In this study, changes in functional guild roles with respect to particle size and particle heterogeneity were examined, rather than traditional biological measures, because functional guild roles are more directly related to physical changes in the environment. The results showed that particle size and particle heterogeneity affected functional roles. Increases in particle size showed a corresponding decrease in number of surface-dwelling species and of surface and subsurface individuals. In addition, increases were observed in the number of domicile guilds, tube-dwelling species, suspension species, deposit-feeding species, and deposit-feeding individuals. Decreases in particle heterogeneity corresponded with a decrease in the number of feeding guilds. This research indicates that the benthic community in Elkhorn Slough may change radically over time, particularly in response to changes in particle size.