Spatial patterns of benthic diversity: is there a latitudinal gradient along the Norwegian continental shelf?

Authors

  • Karie. Ellingsen,

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    1. Section of Marine Zoology and Marine Chemistry, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1064 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
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  • John s. Gray

    1. Section of Marine Zoology and Marine Chemistry, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1064 Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway
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Kari Elsa Ellingsen, Section of Marine Zoology and Marine Chemistry, Department of Biology, University of Oslo, PO Box 1064, Blindern, 0316 Oslo, Norway (fax + 47 22854438; e-mail k.e.ellingsen@bio.uio.no).

Summary

  • 1We examined data on soft-sediment macrobenthos (organisms retained on a 1-mm sieve) from a transect of c. 1960 km along the Norwegian continental shelf (56–71°N), covering a range of water depths (65–434 m) and varying sediment properties.
  • 2A total of 809 species was recorded from 101 sites. Of these, 36% were restricted to one or two sites, and 29% were represented by one or two individuals. No species spanned the entire transect. Polychaetes were the dominant taxonomic group, followed by crustaceans, molluscs and echinoderms.
  • 3Alpha diversity (sample species richness) was highly variable (35–148 species) but showed no evidence of a relationship to latitude or other environmental variables.
  • 4Beta diversity was measured as Whittaker’s βW, the number of shared species, complementarity (biotic distinctness) and Bray–Curtis similarity, and there was no evidence of a latitudinal trend on the shelf. Beta diversity increased with the level of environmental variability, and was highest in the southern-central area, followed by the most northern area. Change in environmental variables had a stronger effect on beta diversity than spatial distance between sites.
  • 5Gamma diversity was computed by pooling samples over large areas. There was no convincing evidence of a latitudinal cline in gamma diversity, but gamma diversity increased with the level of environmental heterogeneity. Mean alpha diversity and gamma diversity were not significantly correlated. Whereas mean complementarity and mean Bray–Curtis similarity were related to gamma diversity, βW was not.

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