Global environmental predictors of benthic marine biogeographic structure

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Christina L BelangerJames W Valentine


Analyses of how environmental factors influence the biogeographic structure of biotas are essential for understanding the processes underlying global diversity patterns and for predicting large-scale biotic responses to global change. Here we show that the large-scale geographic structure of shallow-marine benthic faunas, defined by existing biogeographic schemes, can be predicted with 89-100% accuracy by a few readily available oceanographic variables; temperature alone can predict 53-99% of the present-day structure along coastlines. The same set of variables is also strongly correlated with spatial changes in species compositions of bivalves, a major component of the benthic marine biota, at the 1° grid-cell resolution. These analyses demonstrate the central role of coastal oceanography in structuring benthic marine biogeography and suggest that a few environmental variables may be sufficient to model the response of marine biogeographic structure to past and future changes in climate.


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