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Fact Sheet 2010–3115

Environmental Investigations Using Diatom Microfossils

By Kathryn E.L. Smith and James G. Flocks

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Diatoms provide an exceptional tool for examining environmental change. Diatoms are sensitive to environmental conditions, respond rapidly to environmental change, and preserve well within most sediments. For these reasons, diatom microfossils are a paleoecological proxy for climate change, sea-level rise, catastrophic events, and various water chemistry parameters. U.S. Geological Survey scientists are collecting data on the diatom community in the coastal marshes of Louisiana. Sites are located coincident with Coast-wide Reference and Monitoring System stations, which provide essential vegetation and water chemistry data. The diatom species data will be used to calculate calibration datasets for understanding wetland change due to subsidence, sea-level rise, and storm impacts. They can also be used to establish algae monitoring protocol, create indices for water quality monitoring, and provide calibration data for wetland modeling. Diatom analyses provide a powerful method for quantitatively assessing the fossil record and allow scientists to draw conclusions on the environmental impact of disturbances and past environmental change.

For more information on microfossil studies in coastal Louisiana, see the Gulf Coast Basin Project. For additional information on Louisiana wetland monitoring stations, see the Coast-wide Reference and Monitoring System.

First posted January 13, 2011

For additional information contact:
Kathryn E.L. Smith
U.S. Geological Survey
St. Petersburg Science Center
600 4th Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701

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Suggested citation:

Smith, K.E.L., and Flocks, J.G., 2010, Environmental investigations using diatom microfossils: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2010–3115, 2 p.

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