Wave exposure is one of the fundamental variables of the coastal environment and many coastal processes are affected by waves and wave-induced water motion. Directly or indirectly, waves affect the lives of many coastal macroalgae and seagrasses. Although the idea that waves can affect macrophyte distribution and biodiversity is not new, it remains poorly examined. We looked at how a gradient of wave exposure, determined using the surf similarity number, influences the species richness of macrophytes among phyla and functional form groups. We suggest that wave exposure is a biologically and statistically significant variable and that the species richness of most phyla and groups decrease with increasing exposure. More interestingly, the analysis suggests that the Phaeophyta and the thick-leathery functional form group, which are associated with important coastal habitats (i.e. submarine forests), increases in species richness as exposure increases. It appears that the effect of wave exposure varies with phyla and functional form group. Consequently, we reinforce the belief that studies that address the biodiversity and distribution of macrophytes must include wave exposure as a measured variable, to provide any meaningful synthesis of the ecology of these organisms. © 2010 Japanese Society of Phycology.
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