Benthic foraminifera as bioindicator for cold-water coral reef ecosystems along the Irish margin

Margreth, S., Rüggeberg, Andres and Spezzaferri, S. (2009) Benthic foraminifera as bioindicator for cold-water coral reef ecosystems along the Irish margin Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers, 56 . pp. 2216-2234. DOI 10.1016/j.dsr.2009.07.009.

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Cold-water coral ecosystems building cold-water carbonate mounds occur worldwide and are especially developed along the European margin, from northern Norway to the Gulf of Cadiz. A remarkable mound province is documented southwest of Ireland along the Porcupine and Rockall Banks. In this area carbonate mounds are formed in water depths between 500 and 1200 m and are often densely settled by cold-water coral ecosystems offering many ecological niches for benthic foraminifera. We investigated total (unstained) benthic foraminiferal assemblages from surface sediments (0–1 cm, >63 μm size fraction) of this region with the aim to trace their distribution patterns and to test if they can be used as bioindicators for facies characterization in different parts of carbonate mound systems. Our quantitative data were further statistically treated with non-metric multidimensional scaling (nMDS) based on Bray–Curtis similarity matrix to highlight community patterns that were not readily apparent. Our results indicate that different benthic foraminiferal assemblages characterize different facies along cold-water carbonate mounds and are related to the environmental conditions and available substrates. The following facies can be described: (1) the Off-Mound Facies is dominated by uvigerinids and other infaunal species; (2) the Dropstone Facies is characterized by infaunal Globocassidulina subglobosa and attached-epifaunal Cibicidoides sp.; (3) the Dead Coral Facies is characterised by epifaunal species (e.g., Planulina ariminensis, Hanzawaia boueana) and infaunal species (Spiroplectinella wrightii, Angulogerina angulosa, Epistominella vitrea); (4) the Living Coral Facies includes both infaunal and epifaunal species, but is dominated by the epifaunal Discanomalina coronata; and (5) the Sandwave Facies contains high abundances of epifaunal species including D. coronata. Based on this distribution, we propose D. coronata, as an indicator species to identify active mounds and/or living cold-water coral ecosystems. Our results also emphasise the importance of studying the small size fractions that yield many infaunal species. A causal link exists between distribution patterns of benthic foraminifera and cold-water coral facies, thus providing an independent tool to identify and describe the different facies in this setting.

Document Type: Article
Keywords: R.V. Meteor; R.V. Poseidon; R.V. Pelagia; Benthic foraminifera; Faunal assemblage; Cold-water coral facies; Carbonate mound; Discanomalina coronata
Research affiliation: OceanRep > GEOMAR > FB1 Ocean Circulation and Climate Dynamics > FB1-P-OZ Paleo-Oceanography
Refereed: Yes
DOI etc.: 10.1016/j.dsr.2009.07.009
ISSN: 0967-0637
Projects: HERMES
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2010 08:24
Last Modified: 01 Nov 2016 13:15

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