Impact of outcrop area on estimates of Phanerozoic terrestrial biodiversity trends

P. D. Wall, L. C. Ivany, B. H. Wilkinson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Studies of biodiversity through time have primarily focused on the marine realm which is generally considered to have a more complete record than terrestrial environments. Recently, this assumption has been challenged, and it has been argued that the record of life on land is comparable or even more robust than that of the shallow oceans. Moreover, it has been claimed that terrestrial successions preserve an exponential rise in diversity, even when corrected for sampling biases such as changes in continental rock volume through time. We evaluate relations between terrestrial diversity and exposed areas of terrestrial sediments using our compiled data on areas of global continental outcrops and generic diversity from the Paleobiology Database. Terrestrial global generic diversity and terrestrial outcrop area are highly correlated following a linear relation. No significant correlation is observed between habitat area and either outcrop area or biodiversity, suggesting that the observed relation between diversity and outcrop area is not driven by a common cause, such as eustasy. We do find evidence for a small residual increase in diversity through time after removing the effect of outcrop area, but caution that this may be driven by an increased proportion of terrestrial fauna with high preservation potential.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)53-62
Number of pages10
JournalGeological Society Special Publication
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Ocean Engineering
  • Geology


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