Paper No. 15
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-4:45 PM
The Effect of Pulp and Paper Mill Pollution on Benthic Foraminifera in Coastal Florida
Pollution of various sorts is a problem in coastal Florida. A pulp and paper mill plant is dumping pollutants into two streams in the Florida panhandle. In 1947 Fenholloway River in Taylor County was deemed an industrial river. The Buckeye Mill began discharging wastewater into the river in 1954 and environmental problems have been observed such as a decrease in crustacean diversity and the masculinization of female mosquitofish. The first observation of masculinized female mosquitofish was from Elevenmile Creek in Escambia County. A pulp and paper mill, now owned by International Paper Company, discharges effluent into Elevenmile Creek, which empties into Perdido Bay near Pensacola. Seagrass coverage in this bay has been declining since the start of production of the pulp and paper mill. The goal of this study is to determine if benthic foraminiferal populations in these two streams reflect contamination by the pulp and paper mills. Foraminifera are single-celled organisms that are excellent index fossils for measuring pollution as they are small in size and abundant and because they have short life spans their communities can adapt quickly to environmental changes. Sampling trips in February and August 2008 collected surface sediment samples and short cores from Fenholloway River and Elevenmile Creek. Populations of benthic foraminifera from these samples were compared to populations from samples at three unpolluted control sites. Two of the control sites share similar drainage basins with Elevenmile Creek and Fenholloway River respectively, and the third site is located on the coastline between the two streams. The composition of the foraminiferal communities will be used to assess the effect that the pulp mill effluent is having on the environment. Foraminifera from the core samples will be used to document changes in the environment prior to the onset of pollution.