You are here

Patterns and Variation in Benthic Biodiversity in a Large Marine Ecosystem

TitlePatterns and Variation in Benthic Biodiversity in a Large Marine Ecosystem
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsPiacenza, SE, Barner, AK, Benkwitt, CE, Boersma, KS, Cerny-Chipman, EB, Ingeman, KE, Kindinger, TL, Lee, JD, Lindsley, AJ, Reimer, JN, Rowe, JC, Shen, C, Thompson, KA, Thurman, LL, Heppell, SS
Keywordsbiodiversity, EMU, GIS and oceanography, habitats, invertebrates, large marine ecosystem, LME, latitude, marine biology, marine fish, PACOOS, Goldfinger, phylogeography, species diversity

While there is a persistent inverse relationship between latitude and species diversity across many taxa and ecosystems, deviations from this norm offer an opportunity to understand the conditions that contribute to large-scale diversity patterns. Marine systems, in particular, provide such an opportunity, as marine diversity does not always follow a strict latitudinal gradient, perhaps because several hypothesized drivers of the latitudinal diversity gradient are uncorrelated in marine systems. We used a large scale public monitoring dataset collected over an eight year period to examine benthic marine faunal biodiversity patterns for the continental shelf (55–183 m depth) and slope habitats (184–1280 m depth) off the US West Coast (47°20′N—32°40′N). We specifically asked whether marine biodiversity followed a strict latitudinal gradient, and if these latitudinal patterns varied across depth, in different benthic substrates, and over ecological time scales. Further, we subdivided our study area into three smaller regions to test whether coast-wide patterns of biodiversity held at regional scales, where local oceanographic processes tend to influence community structure and function. Overall, we found complex patterns of biodiversity on both the coast-wide and regional scales that differed by taxonomic group. Importantly, marine biodiversity was not always highest at low latitudes. We found that latitude, depth, substrate, and year were all important descriptors of fish and invertebrate diversity. Invertebrate richness and taxonomic diversity were highest at high latitudes and in deeper waters. Fish richness also increased with latitude, but exhibited a hump-shaped relationship with depth, increasing with depth up to the continental shelf break, ~200 m depth, and then decreasing in deeper waters. We found relationships between fish taxonomic and functional diversity and latitude, depth, substrate, and time at the regional scale, but not at the coast-wide scale, suggesting that coast-wide patterns can obscure important correlates at smaller scales. Our study provides insight into complex diversity patterns of the deep water soft substrate benthic ecosystems off the US West Coast.

Alternate JournalPLoS ONE