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Biogeomorphology of aquatic systems

Fig.6 Illustrates how biota act as ecosystem engineers and influence sediment stability and morphology in the intertidal zone.
Biogeomorphology considers the interactions between the ecology and geomorphology of a system. Ecology is the study of relationships between the biota and their environment, and geomorphology examines landforms and how they are formed. Biogeomorphology can be studied in terrestrial as well as aquatic systems. Within aquatic systems biogeomorphological relationships can be found for both hard substrates (rocky shores / coral reefs) and soft substrates (muddy / sandy coastal sediments). Biota can alter geomorphology by creating hard substrates (e.g. coral reefs) or by modifying the stability or erodability of soft substrates. Key species in the benthic communities of sediment shores can influence geomorphology by acting as biostabilizers or biodestabilizers of sediment. The impact of organisms on coastal morphology can be both dramatic (e.g. coral reefs, saltmarshes, mussel beds) and more subtle by modifying rates of sediment erosion and accretion.