Project title: Seasonal Variability of Salt Marsh Foraminifera at the Narrow River, Rhode Island, USA
Mentor: Simon Engelhart
Abstract: Salt-marsh foraminifera are commonly used as proxies for producing high-resolution relative sea-level reconstructions over the Holocene. These reconstructions are based on the analogy between modern and fossil assemblages of foraminifera, in which modern assemblages were characterized using surface sediment samples collected on a single day. This approach implicitly assumes that instantaneous sampling of modern salt-marsh foraminifera is adequate to characterize the relationship between foraminiferal assemblages and tidal elevation. However, foraminiferal populations may vary during a year in response to seasonal changes, which may affect the reliability of relative sea-level reconstructions. The effect of seasonality on salt marsh foraminiferal populations has been studied in the United Kingdom as well as on the Pacific coast of the USA, but is absent on the Atlantic coast of the USA. To address this, we investigated the role of seasonality on foraminiferal distributions from a salt marsh environment at the Narrow River (Rhode Island, USA). We analyzed living and dead foraminiferal species from 48 samples through a full year during all four seasons. Common species included Trochammina inflata, Jadammina macrescens, Tiphotrocha comprimata, Miliammina fusca, Reophax spp., and Haplophragmoides spp. Other species included Siphotrochammina lobata, Arenoparella mexicana, Textularia spp., Ammobaculites spp., and Eggerella advena. Low marsh samples were dominated by Miliammina fusca and Reophax spp., while high marsh samples are identified by high abundances of Haplophragmoides spp. Statistical analyses of these samples enables us to identify the influence of seasonality on modern foraminiferal distributions.