Marine Science Faculty Publications

Decadal-Scale Changes in Benthic Foraminiferal Assemblages Off Key Largo, Florida

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Coastal Water, Foraminifera, Sedimentology, Valuable Resource, Coastal Ecosystem

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Assemblages of foraminiferal tests in sediments sampled off Key Largo, Florida, in 1982, 1991, and 1992 were significantly different from assemblages sampled along the same traverses in 1959-1961. Larger, algal symbiont-bearing taxa, primarily Soritidae, comprised 50-80% of the specimens in samples collected in 1959-1961, whereas Miliolidae and Rotaliidae comprised 65-90% of the specimens collected in 1991 and 1992. Test abundance in 1992 samples ranged from 1.0 × 102/g to 8.1 × 104/g; tests were least abundant in coarse, well-sorted sediments. The lack of test-density data for the 1959-1961 samples prevented assessment of whether densities of smaller foraminifera have increased, symbiotic foraminifera have decreased, or both. Between 1982 and 1992, densities of smaller foraminifera appear to have increased. Although the causes of these changes in foraminiferal assemblages are not known, possible factors include nutrient loading inshore, winnowing and transport of tests by storm activity, and disease. The shift in dominance from long-lived, algal symbiont-bearing taxa in 1959-1961 to small, fast-growing, heterotrophic taxa in 1992 is consistent with predictions of community response to gradually increasing nutrient flux into south Florida's coastal waters. This study indicates that published accounts of foraminiferal assemblages from sediments collected 30 or more years ago can be valuable resources in efforts to determine if biotic changes have occurred in coastal ecosystems. This study also indicates that family-level identifications may be sufficient to detect decadal-scale changes in foraminiferal assemblages in reef-tract sediments.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Coral Reefs, v. 15, issue 4, p. 237-248