The number of diatom valves and fragments per gram of surface sediment in the Atlantic Ocean accurately reflects diatom abundance in the overlying waters, without any evidence of significant lateral drift during settling to the sea bottom. The distribution pattern of the number of resting spores per gram is similar to that for the whole and fragmented diatom valves. Fresh water diatoms and opal phytoliths are abundant in the sediments off the west coast of Africa where they have been deposited by the Trade Winds.
Despite the relatively small number of core tops analyzed, the abundance and distribution patterns of diatoms in the sediments exhibit striking similarities to the patterns of primary productivity, phosphates, and annual production of silica in suspension in surface waters. Areas with high phosphate values and primary productivity and, therefore, areas of upwelling can be inferred from the quantitative distribution of diatoms in the sediments. Q-mode factor analysis, based on the abundance of forty-two species in thirty-seven core tops, produced six diatom species assemblages whose distributions provide additional information on the positions of certain water masses and major currents.
Since the data on the quantitative distribution of diatom valves as well as on the diatom assemblages in the sediments of the Atlantic Ocean today allow prediction of certain water mass characteristics and circulation patterns of the overlying waters, they therefore, permit the reconstruction of paleoceanographic circulation patterns in ancient Atlantic Oceans, using the diatom distribution in sediments from dated horizons.