Rapid deterioration of sediment surface habitats in Bellingham Bay, Washington State, as indicated by benthic foraminifera

Foraminiferal assemblages in sediment grab samples were utilized to evaluate the impacts of anthropogenic activities on benthic habitats in Bellingham Bay, Washington State, U.S.A. Seventy-three samples taken in 1987, 1997, 2006 and 2010 yielded 35 species of foraminifera from 28 genera. Assemblage composition and diversity data indicate a marked deterioration between 1987 and 2010, contrary to the published Chemical Index, but analogous to the situation with macrobiota. Correlation of diversity with chemical pollutants and metals did not identify any significant correlations, however, an unrelated but highly relevant study of bottom water dissolved oxygen concentrations and pH in Bellingham Bay suggests eutrophication with accompanying hypoxia and acidification may be part of the cause. Thus, the metrics of contamination alone do not adequately characterize habitat viability, and benthic foraminiferal assemblages provide insight into the health of coastal ecosystems.

Nesbitt E. A., Martin R. A., Martin D. E. & Apple J., 2015. Rapid deterioration of sediment surface habitats in Bellingham Bay, Washington State, as indicated by benthic foraminifera. Marine Pollution Bulletin 97(1–2):273–284. Article (subscription required).


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