Foraminifera as Ecosystem Indicators: Phase 1. A Marine Benthic Perturbation Index; Phase 2. Bioassay Protocols

EPA Grant Number: R825869
Title: Foraminifera as Ecosystem Indicators: Phase 1. A Marine Benthic Perturbation Index; Phase 2. Bioassay Protocols
Investigators: Muller, Pamela Hallock
Institution: University of South Florida
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: October 1, 1997 through September 30, 2002
Project Amount: $295,043
RFA: Ecosystem Indicators (1997) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration , Ecosystems


Foraminifera are by far the most useful group of paleoenvironmental indicators utilized by geoscientists because a) their shells are abundant sediment constituents, b) they are small; c) different taxa have evolved to exploit most marine environments, and d) their shells record environmental conditions.

This project will initiate development of techniques for routine use of foraminifera as ecosystem indicators in both field and laboratory settings: Phase 1 will develop and test a model for assessing ecological integrity of marine benthic ecosystems, which is based on changes in key taxa of foraminifera, providing an index for assessing how benthic communities have changed under human influence.

Phase 2 will initiate development of bioassay protocols for foraminifera in laboratory studies of the effects of key stressors in marine benthic environments.


Phase 1. An index, which can be applied worldwide using sediment-data sets, will be developed to quantify change in benthic ecosystems under anthropogenic influence. The proposed procedure requires minimal technology and can be applied by technicians with modest training. The model ranks relative abundances of key foraminiferal taxa and total abundances, generating an index value when assemblages are compared temporally or spatially. The model is adaptable to local or regional biotas and can incorporate other data that can be scaled to the model. Phase 2. Specific protocols will be developed utilizing visual, cytological and biochemical responses to enable routine experimentation using reef-dwelling foraminifera with algal endosymbionts. Besides being globally important in their own right, these foraminifera provide a model "calcifying symbiosis" for testing stressors that threaten the ecological integrity of coral-reef ecosystems. Protocols will also be adaptable to other culturable foraminifera from other ecosystems.

Expected Results:

Phase 1. A report presenting the Marine Benthic Perturbation Index and how to apply it will be prepared and submitted to EPA. In addition, one or more manuscripts discussing the Index and its utility will be published. Phase 2. A report describing experimental protocols using Amphistegina spp. to test stressors of concern to coral-reef ecosystems will be prepared and submitted to EPA. Results of the experiments will be published in several manuscripts.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 62 publications for this project

Journal Articles:

Journal Articles have been submitted on this project: View all 10 journal articles for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

ecosystem indicators, ecological effects, ecological integrity, culture protocols, foraminifera, RFA, Scientific Discipline, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Hydrology, Ecology, exploratory research environmental biology, Environmental Chemistry, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Ecosystem Protection, Ecological Effects - Environmental Exposure & Risk, Ecological Indicators, ecological exposure, anthropogenic stresses, foraminifera, marine ecosystem, algae, coral reefs, stressors, benthic biota, ecosystem indicators, soil, aquatic ecosystems

Relevant Websites: Exit EPA icon

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 1998
  • 1999 Progress Report
  • 2000 Progress Report
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • Final Report