- The Paleontological Society
Since David Raup's seminal 1976 work, paleontologists have been aware of the relationship between outcrop area and diversity. By incorporating lithologic data derived from Alexander Ronov and coworkers into our own data on areas of mapped outcrops from worldwide geologic maps, we are able to establish a quantitative connection between area of sedimentary rock exposure and diversity from the same general depositional environments. Significant power-law relations are observed at both global and continental scales of consideration. The addition of data on areas of habitable area estimated from paleogeographic maps does not substantially affect these correlations between outcrop area and diversity, indicating that the relation between outcrop area and diversity is primarily a function of sampling and not a common cause such as sea level. We observe a significant diversity-area effect, first noted by Jack Sepkoski in the marine realm. Unlike Sepkoski's, however, our diversity-area effect appears to play a substantial role in influencing diversity through time; a true global diversity signal appears to be contained in the rock record despite the impacts of variable sampling.
Greater outcrop area can serve to increase estimated diversity by increasing both the sample size and the range of habitats and biogeographic provinces sampled. After standardizing for pure sampling intensity by rarefying the number of taxon occurrences, outcrop area continues to explain a substantial portion of global marine diversity. This indicates that coverage, or sampling from multiple habitats and biogeographic provinces, is even more important than sampling intensity. If we remove the effect of outcrop area from our estimate of global biodiversity, we do not observe a net increase in diversity toward the present, lending support to other studies that have not supported a substantial, long-term global increase in biodiversity during the Phanerozoic.