Does the recent pool of benthic foraminiferal tests in fjordic surface sediments reflect interannual environmental changes? The resolution limit of the foraminiferal record

Magdalena Łącka, Marek Zajączkowski


Benthic foraminifera tests (living + dead) and conductivity, temperature and depth (CTD) records in Hornsund Fjord (SW Spitsbergen) were studied over five non-consecutive summer seasons during 2002–2011. The data indicated significant changes in the abundance of benthic foraminifera, species composition and the variability of hydrological and micro-environmental conditions in this fjord. The increased inflow of Atlantic Water (AW) resulted in higher foraminiferal biodiversity and a greater number of rare species; however, many of these were fragile and were thus poorly preserved in the sediment. Cold years significantly reduced species richness in the fjord centre, while more stable hydrological conditions with a predominance of opportunistic foraminifera were noted at the fjord head. Elphidium excavatum f. clavata and Cassidulina reniforme exhibited sensitivity to salinity changes and food supply. The dynamic foraminiferal response to hydrological changes led to the conclusion that the annual foraminiferal flux, compounded by the poor preservation of fragile individuals, significantly changed the spatial and interannual composition of the foraminiferal tests remaining in the sediment. Furthermore, only mature individuals are representative of yearlong or multi-year fjord conditions, since the juveniles that bloom during their maximum growth periods in spring can die out under poor summer and winter conditions. The findings of this study indicated that the upper 8 cm of the sediment in the intense depositional systems of the Svalbard fjords provide good representation of recently departed benthic foraminifera, because of their mobility in surface sediments and further sediment compaction. Hence, the corresponding 10- to 15-year resolution in palaeoceanographic investigations seems to be the most reliable.

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