Patterns of foraminiferal species diversity were examined along the eastern margin of North America by utilizing the number of species, S, the information function, H(S), and species equitability, E. The 350 modern samples we studied extended from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico at depths ranging from a few meters to more than 5,000 m. In addition, 29 samples from Miocene strata of the Atlantic Coastal Plain and continental shelf were studied.
Modern species diversity as measured by S and H(S) generally increases as depth increases and latitude decreases. Some notable exceptions occur, however, which are difficult to explain. For example, species diversity in the Arctic depth interval of 0 to 100 m is as high or higher than that found immediately south of Nova Scotia, in the Gulf of Maine, on Browns and Georges Banks, and even off the Gulf of Mexico deltas. At the moderate depth interval of 100 to 1,000 m, however, the entire margin north of Browns and Georges Banks has lower diversities than that to the south. The highest diversity by far in this depth interval occurs in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico. At the depth interval greater than 1,000 m, the more southern areas studied generally have a higher species diversity than the more northern Cape Cod to Maryland area. An exception to this is the northwestern Gulf of Mexico; this area is also an exception in that species diversity is significantly lower in the deeper waters than in the shallower waters in the same area.
The measure of species equitability, E, showed no clear pattern with depth or latitude. This may be so because no simple pattern of species proportions exists or because the sampling was inadequate to measure it.
Samples from the Miocene strata show a striking resemblance in species diversity to modern samples at similar depths and latitudes. Our observations indicate that species diversity and equitability have not increased during the last 15 × 106 yrs. The fossil and modern data indicate that each environment has its own carrying capacity and that this capacity is reached rather quickly. Although time and environmental stability are undoubtedly important in determining species diversity, as presently defined they are inadequate to explain all observed patterns. Long-term observations in various environments will be required to determine the relative importance of variables that affect species diversity.
- Geological Society of America