Structure & condition of intertidal zone

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The intertidal zone is the area that is above water at low tide and under water at high tide. It is also known as the foreshore and seashore and sometimes referred to as the littoral zone. This area can include many different types of habitats, including cliffs, sandy beaches, mudflats, saltmarsh. Organisms in the intertidal zone are adapted to an environment of harsh extremes.

Structural and conditional changes to the intertidal zone may manifest as changes to either or a combination of physical, biological or chemical processes, the scale of which shall be dependent upon the scale of the initial structural changes and resulting hydrodynamic and sedimentary regimes. Modifications that disrupt dominant hydrodynamic and sedimentary patters, such as the construction of breakwaters, removal of tidal sluices and construction of sea walls can result in changes to the condition of the intertidal zone. Such changes result in modification of the existing intertidal zone over a variety of temporal and spatial scales and may be of beneficial or adverse consequence to structure, condition and integrity.

A range of natural and human-induced activities can change the structure and condition of the intertidal zone, by altering the dominant hydrodynamic and sedimentary regimes. These activities can have a significant impact on the physical condition of the intertidal zone and the habitats they support, for example by increasing erosion or reducing accretion. Key to the resulting structure and condition is the scale of the change and the ability of the system to respond and adapt to the new conditions. Changes that occur relatively quickly (seconds to months) invariaby result in adverse impacts to the system, while relatively slow (years to decades) result in negligible impacts as the system responds to the changing external forcing parameters of the associated change.


Guidance on changes to intertidal zone

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