2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 41-14
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-5:30 PM


SIDER, Maria N., Earth and Environment, Florida International University, 11200 S.W. 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199 and COLLINS, Laurel S., Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University, Miami, FL 33199, mnsider@gmail.com

Increasing coastal development and other human activities along coastlines have deleterious effects on marine ecosystems. Polluted waters and turbidity are caused by runoff, habitat is lost through deforestation, and reduced size and occurrence of species result from overfishing. Given that species diversity is more pronounced in the tropics, particularly in the Caribbean because of smaller populations per species and very high diversity, extinctions are likely to have a larger impact on global biodiversity. This study examines modern communities of benthic foraminifera from mangrove, seagrass and coral reef habitats of Bocas del Toro, Panama, an ideal study site because natural disturbances such as hurricanes and earthquakes are rare and its rainforests make it a popular tourist destination. Data from this study will form the baseline for future comparison to samples from a “pristine” mid-Holocene reef to determine if there have been significant changes in the ecology of these habitats as a result of anthropogenic disturbance, which has implications for the preservation and conservation of marine habitats along tropical coastlines.

In this study we analyze the relative abundance and diversity of benthic foraminifera in 56 shallow-water (<10m) sediment samples collected in December 2014 from mangrove, seagrass and coral reef communities along Bocas del Toro coastlines by a ponar-type grab sampler. Samples were washed through a 63µm sieve and dried, and the benthic foraminifera were picked and taxonomically sorted. Preliminary data show mangrove samples having a lower diversity than seagrass samples, which is common. Mangrove samples have <30 species per sample, with a dominance of Rotaliina, particularly Ammonia sp., a nearshore indicator. Seagrass samples have >50 species per sample, with near even proportions of Miliolina to Rotaliina. The prediction, based on preliminary data and previous research, is that species distributions and diversity are correlated with habitat type. Cluster analysis and Fisher’s alpha diversity index will be used to compare distributions of the benthic foraminifera across habitats and identify environmental indicator species within habitats.