Environmental factors affecting planktonic foraminifera abundance and distribution in the Northeast Gulf of Mexico
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The shell composition of planktonic foraminifera used in many paleoreconstructions assumes they are accurately representing conditions at the surface/mixed layer. However, planktonic foraminifera are known to inhabit a depth range that extends below the mixed layer. In the present study, foraminifera were collected at discrete depth intervals using a Multiple Opening and Closing Net Environmental Sensing System (MOCNESS) in either cyclonic or anticyclonic eddies that had contrasting environmental conditions. The foraminifera abundances and distributions were compared to the water depth, temperature, density, and chlorophyll profiles. Nine species were found consistently among all the tows and composed at least 96% of the species found, though a shift in the species abundances and depths occurred between eddies. Species occurred where physical factors were compatible with conditions and feeding opportunities they were adapted to. Three species pink and white Globigerinoides ruber and Globigerinoides sacculifer thrived best when a steep density gradient resulted in a shallower mixed-layer that restricted them under more intense light and allowed them to better exploit their algae symbionts. Globigerina bulloides was found outside its sub-polar habitat because the waters of the cyclones were cool enough (less than 26??C) at the same depths that sufficient chlorophyll was available. Two species Orbulina universa, and Globorotalia menardii were consistently absent in the mixed layer, but tracked deeper chlorophyll concentrations. Three other species were found inconsistently among the tows: Hastigerina pelagica, Globigerinella siphonifera, and Globigerinella calida. H. pelagica probably follows chlorophyll concentrations. G. siphonifera, and G. calida have a preference for deeper waters within the photic zone. The drastic doubling to tripling of the foraminifera abundances in cyclones biases downcore reconstructions of sea surface temperature towards cooler conditions. Also, the shift in species composition between the two eddies indicates that in environments where eddies, upwellings, or rings exist may bias the downcore composition of each species towards cooler conditions. G. sacculifer was found to live primarily in the mixed layer and at least 75% of its downcore individuals are expected to represent conditions there. Researchers should consider the described species distributions to better understand the water column conditions they are reconstructing.
Ravula, Sharath Reddy (2003). Environmental factors affecting planktonic foraminifera abundance and distribution in the Northeast Gulf of Mexico. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from