Marine Science Faculty Publications

Foraminiferal Assemblage Indices: A Comparison of Sediment and Reef Rubble Samples from Conch Reef, Florida, USA

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biodiversity, coral reefs, diversity indices, environmental indicators, foram index, foraminifera

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Benthic foraminiferal assemblages are increasingly utilized as indicators of water and sediment quality in coastal-marine environments. Most reef-dwelling foraminifers live on firm substrata such as reef or phytal surfaces, while most assessments have examined assemblages from sediments. This case study compared relative abundances of total foraminiferal-shell assemblages between sediment and phytal/rubble samples collected from one reef within one week. A total of 117 species within 72 genera were identified, with the same taxa in both sample sets in different proportions. Larger benthic foraminifers and some agglutinated taxa were concentrated about 1.5–3 fold in sediment samples, while nearly two-thirds of small, fragile shells were lost. Several common indices were compared, including Taxonomic Richness (number of genera), Shannon (H), Simpson's (D) and Fisher (α) diversity indices, Evenness (E), and the FORAM Index (FI). Highly significant differences (p less than 0.001) between shell assemblages from 13 sets of phytal/rubble substrata and sediments were found in mean number (± standard deviation) of genera (49 ± 4 vs. 34 ± 10) and mean FI (5.6 ± 0.8 vs. 3.6 ± 0.4); both reflecting greater relative abundances of smaller foraminifers in the rubble samples. Fisher diversity was marginally significant (p = 0.05); other indices showed no significant differences between sample types. Although assessment of total assemblages is substantially less costly than distinguishing between specimens that were live or dead when collected, many researchers report those distinctions. The results of our study provide insight that can assist interpretations of studies that use live assemblages to calculate the FI, rather than total assemblages for which it was originally developed.

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Ecological Indicators, v. 48, p. 1-7