Global gradients in intertidal species richness and functional groups

  1. Jakob Thyrring  Is a corresponding author
  2. Lloyd S Peck
  1. British Antarctic Survey, United Kingdom


Whether global latitudinal diversity gradients exist in rocky intertidal a-diversity and across functional groups remains unknown. Using literature data from 433 intertidal sites, we investigated α-diversity patterns across 155° of latitude, and whether local-scale or global-scale structuring processes control α-diversity. We, furthermore, investigated how the relative composition of functional groups changes with latitude. α-diversity differed among hemispheres with a mid-latitudinal peak in the north, and a non-significant unimodal pattern in the south, but there was no support for a tropical-to-polar decrease in α-diversity. Although global-scale drivers had no discernible effect, the local-scale drivers significantly affected α-diversity, and our results reveal that latitudinal diversity gradients are outweighed by local-processes. In contrast to α-diversity patterns, three functional groups: predators, grazers and suspension-feeders diversity declined with latitude, coinciding with an inverse gradient in algae. Polar and tropical intertidal data were sparse, and more sampling is required to improve knowledge of marine biodiversity.

Data availability

Data used in this study are freely available from the Multi-Agency Rocky Intertidal Network (MARINe;, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS; and the Alaska Ocean Observing System (AOOS; Publications obtained from the literature search, and previously unpublished species lists from Arctic locations can be found on the Zenodo data repository (Thyrring & Peck, 2020).

The following data sets were generated

Article and author information

Author details

  1. Jakob Thyrring

    Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation team, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    For correspondence
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.
    ORCID icon "This ORCID iD identifies the author of this article:" 0000-0002-1029-3105
  2. Lloyd S Peck

    Biodiversity, Evolution and Adaptation team, British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom
    Competing interests
    The authors declare that no competing interests exist.


Danmarks Frie Forskningsfond (7027-00060B)

  • Lloyd S Peck

UKRI Natural Environment Research Council

  • Lloyd S Peck

The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.

Reviewing Editor

  1. Detlef Weigel, Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology, Germany

Publication history

  1. Received: November 2, 2020
  2. Accepted: March 18, 2021
  3. Accepted Manuscript published: March 19, 2021 (version 1)
  4. Version of Record published: April 8, 2021 (version 2)


© 2021, Thyrring & Peck

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License permitting unrestricted use and redistribution provided that the original author and source are credited.


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  1. Jakob Thyrring
  2. Lloyd S Peck
Global gradients in intertidal species richness and functional groups
eLife 10:e64541.

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