Variability of intertidal foraminiferal assemblages in a salt marsh, Oregon, USA.

TitleVariability of intertidal foraminiferal assemblages in a salt marsh, Oregon, USA.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsMilker Y, Horton BP, Nelson AR, Engelhart SE, Witter RC
JournalMarine Micropaleontology
Date Published06/2015
KeywordsCascadia subduction zone, infaunal, patchiness, Relative sea level, Salt-marsh foraminifera, taphonomy

We studied 18 sampling stations along a transect to investigate the similarity between live (rose Bengal stained) foraminiferal populations and dead assemblages, their small-scale spatial variations and the distribution of infaunal foraminifera in a salt marsh (Toms Creek marsh) at the upper end of the South Slough arm of the Coos Bay estuary, Oregon, USA. We aimed to test to what extent taphonomic processes, small-scale variability and infaunal distribution influence the accuracy of sea-level reconstructions based on intertidal foraminifera. Cluster analyses have shown that dead assemblages occur in distinct zones with respect to elevation, a prerequisite for using foraminifera as sea-level indicators. Our nonparametric multivariate analysis of variance showed that small-scale spatial variability has only a small influence on live (rose Bengal stained) populations and dead assemblages. The dissimilarity was higher, however, between live (rose Bengal stained) populations in the middle marsh. We observed early diagenetic dissolution of calcareous tests in the dead assemblages. If comparable post-depositional processes and similar minor spatial variability also characterize fossil assemblages, then dead assemblage are the best modern analogs for paleoenvironmental reconstructions. The Toms Creek tidal flat and low marsh vascular plant zones are dominated by Miliammina fusca, the middle marsh is dominated by Balticammina pseudomacrescens andTrochammina inflata, and the high marsh and upland–marsh transition zone are dominated by Trochamminita irregularis. Analysis of infaunal foraminifera showed that most living specimens are found in the surface sediments and the majority of live (rose Bengal stained) infaunal specimens are restricted to the upper 10 cm, but living individuals are found to depths of 50 cm. The dominant infaunal specimens are similar to those in the corresponding surface samples and no species have been found living solely infaunally. The total numbers of infaunal foraminifera are small compared to the total numbers of dead specimens in the surface samples. This suggests that surface samples adequately represent the modern intertidal environment in Toms Creek.