Does Disturbance alter Shoreline Plant Community Composition in the Beaver Island Archipelago
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Disturbance plays a crucial role in the composition and structure of shoreline plant communities. However, there has been much debate as to how disturbance affects community composition and species richness. To better understand how disturbance operates to structure communities through both space and time, we sampled nine sites 9 or 10 years apart and intensively sampled two sites 7 years apart throughout the Beaver Island Archipelago recording the presence or absence of species, substrate type, and geomorphology at each the site. By grouping plots spatially using distance from the shore, we compared sites assessing the degree of change of substrate and the plant species turnover between years. We found a high degree of change in both the plant communities and substrate composition. Plant communities experienced a greater degree of change closer to the shore and plant species turnover was correlated to change in substrate. As climate change is predicted to alter the disturbance regime around sites such as the Beaver Island shorelines, it is important to understand how disturbance affects the assemblage of plant communities through time, if we are to understand and possibly predict how climate change will impact ecological communities.