Impact of carbonate saturation on large Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages

Increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide and its dissolution in seawater have reduced ocean pH and carbonate ion concentrations, with potential implications on calcifying organisms. To assess the response of large Caribbean benthic foraminifera to low carbonate saturation conditions, we analyzed benthic foraminifers’ abundance and relative distribution in surface sediments in proximity to low-carbonate-saturation submarine springs and at adjacent control sites. Our results show that the total abundance of large benthic foraminifera was significantly lower at the low-pH submarine springs than at control sites, although responses were species specific. The relative abundance of high-magnesium, porcelaneous foraminifera was higher than that of hyaline foraminifera at the low-pH springs due to the abundant Archaias angulatus, a chlorophyte-bearing foraminifer, which secretes a large and robust test that is more resilient to dissolution at low-calcite saturation. The different assemblages found at the submarine springs indicate that calcareous symbiont-barren foraminifera are more sensitive to the effects of ocean acidification than agglutinated and symbiont-bearing foraminifera, suggesting that future ocean acidification will likely impact natural benthic foraminifera populations.

Martinez A., Hernández-Terrones L., Rebolledo-Vieyra M. & Paytan A., 2018. Impact of carbonate saturation on large Caribbean benthic foraminifera assemblages. Biogeosciences 15(22): 6819-6832. Article.

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