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Experimental mesocosm studies of rocky shore and estuarine intertidal systems may benefit from the application of natural tide cycles to better replicate variation in immersion time, water depth, and attendant fluctuations in abiotic and edaphic conditions. Here we describe a stand-alone microcontroller tide prediction open-source software program, coupled with a mechanical tidal elevation control system, which allows continuous adjustment of aquarium water depths in synchrony with local tide cycles. We used this system to monitor the growth of Spartina foliosa marsh cordgrass and scale insect herbivores at three simulated shore elevations in laboratory mesocosms. Plant growth decreased with increasing shore elevation, while scale insect population growth on the plants was not strongly affected by immersion time. This system shows promise for a range of laboratory mesocosm studies where natural tide cycling could impact organism performance or behavior, while the tide prediction system could additionally be utilized in field experiments where treatments need to be applied at certain stages of the tide cycle.
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