Patterns of planktonic foraminiferal abundance and diversity in surface sediments of the western North Atlantic

William L. Balsam, Karl W. Flessa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Seventy-two core tops and grab samples from the western North Atlantic were analyzed to determine what aspects of planktonic foraminiferal abundance and diversity are most closely related to ocean circulation. Some species appear to be reliable indicators of the Gulf Stream, a warm surface current. Both Globorotalia menardii and Globigerinoides sacculifer have their highest abundances under the main trend of the Gulf Stream. Globorotalia inflata reaches high abundances in the cold slope water north of the Gulf Stream but its distribution is not as continuous as the Gulf Stream indicators. Contoured values of species diversity, the Shannon diversity index, and species equitability also reflect surface circulation. A plot of species diversity (number of species) shows a poorly defined region of high diversity beneath the major trend of the Gulf Stream. Use of the Shannon diversity index enhances and clarifies this region of high diversity. A map of species equitability shows a broad belt of low species dominance (high equitability) beneath the Gulf Stream. North of the Gulf Stream, a tongue of high dominance (low equitability) corresponds to the increased relative abundance of Globorotalia inflata. High diversity of planktonic foraminifera in bottom sediments characterizes the warm shifting surface currents of the Gulf Stream; low diversity is typical of slope and Sargasso Sea waters. Low equitability (high species dominance) indicates either cold currents or gyre center waters. Maps of foraminiferal diversity and equitability for other intervals of geologic time may be useful in tracing the evolution of ocean circulation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)279-294
Number of pages16
JournalMarine Micropaleontology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1978

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography
  • Palaeontology


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