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On the Prediction of Maximal Intertidal Wave Forces

Mark W. Denny and Steven D. Gaines
Limnology and Oceanography
Vol. 35, No. 1 (Jan., 1990), pp. 1-15
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2837333
Page Count: 15
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On the Prediction of Maximal Intertidal Wave Forces
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Abstract

Understanding of the mechanics of "wave exposure" has been restricted by an inability to predict the maximal force encountered by particular wave-swept organisms on a time scale of months to years. In this study we attempt to remedy this situation by using the statistics of extremes to examine the hydrodynamic forces encountered by objects at a vareity of intertidal sites. At each site a time series of wave-induced forces was divided into intervals, and the maximal force encountered in each interval was noted. Each maximum was normalized to the mean of the maxima for the series. The cumulative probability of encountering a given normalized force was found to be similar among objects and across a wide range of surf conditions and time scales. This observed cumulative probability distribution is consistent with that predicted from simple assumptions regarding the distribution of nearshore wave heights, the wave-height dependence of near-substratum water velocities, and the velocity dependence of hydrodynamic forces. The nature of this probability distribution allows one to predict on the basis of a relatively small number of measurements the maximal force a particular organism is likely to encounter in any given period. This information can in turn be used as a tool for exploring the ecological effects of distrubance and the evolution of body structure and life-history strategies.

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