An experimental approach to understand the responses of benthic foraminifera to Cd, Pb, Hg, and Zn
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Foraminifera respond to a large suite of environmental parameters in addition to anthropogenic influences. To successfully apply foraminifera as bio-indicators we must be able to establish how they respond to individual parameters, including pollutants, in a controlled environment. Only then will it be possible to apply foraminifers as bio-indicators in specific environments. Experiments were conducted to study the responses of common coastal benthic foraminiferans to Cd, Pb, Hg and Zn. Foraminiferal propagule banks used in these experiments were collected from relatively pristine mudflats, located near the lighthouse on Sapelo Island, Georgia. Results document change in assemblage abundance, diversity, evenness and the construction of aberrant test morphologies in response to different levels of exposure to selected heavy metals. Haynesina germanica and Ammonia tepida are more resistant to high concentrations of heavy metals. Ovammina opaca and Psammophaga simplora are able to withstand exposure to small concentrations of heavy metals. In general increased exposure to Pb, Zn, and Cd resulted in a decrease in abundances, and species richness. Variable results were observed in evenness with increasing concentrations. Zn was the only metal in the study that produced aberrant test morphologies. A. tepida deformed the most frequently and exhibited a distinctive enlarged aperture. Results suggest foraminifera are potential bio-indicators in stressed polluted environments.