Open-File Report 97-034

Modern Benthic Foraminifer Distributions in Biscayne Bay: Analogs for Historical Reconstructions

By Scott E. Ishman, Ian Graham, and Jill D'Ambrosio

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The ecosystems in the Everglades and adjacent regions (Florida and Biscayne Bays) are showing increasing signs of stress: natural vegetation patterns are changing, fisheries are declining, and industrial pollution is increasing. In response to this, the Everglades Forever Act was passed in 1994, and Federal, State, and local jurisdictions are faced with water and land-use management decisions related to the restoration, mediation and monitoring of the South Florida ecosystem. To help make these decisions, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Park Service (NPS), and Army Corps of Engineers (ACOE), among others, have initiated research programs focused on the restoration of a significant portion of the Everglades ecosystem. An integral part of the restoration effort is a comprehensive understanding of the ecosystem dynamics of South Florida, including evaluation of modern biotic distributions within the South Florida ecosystems and determination of natural versus human-induced variability in the South Florida ecosystem.

The ecosystem of Biscayne Bay includes marginal fresh water and salt water wetlands, intertidal, and off-shore marine communities, many of which are also present in Florida Bay. The health of each of these communities can be linked to the hydrologic regime of South Florida. Major factors that may affect these communities include alteration of fresh-water flow into Biscayne Bay (surface and ground); urbanization of Dade County with resulting increased storm runoff; natural and artificial changes to vegetation; and natural disasters, including hurricanes and prolonged dry and wet seasons. Many of these factors affect not only Biscayne Bay, but the Everglades and Florida Bay as well. In order to understand fully the effect that these, and other conditions may have had on the evolution of the Biscayne Bay and the entire South Florida ecosystem, a thorough understanding of the modern ecosystem is essential.

Benthic foraminifera from marine sediment records have long been used for paleoenvironmental reconstructions. However, a comprehensive understanding of modern foraminiferal distributions is necessary in order to make inferences on past environmental conditions. During August 1996, surficial sediment samples and water column data were collected from 23 sites within Biscayne Bay. The results presented here represent the initial report on benthic foraminiferal distributions in Biscayne Bay sediment samples. This report is produced by the Ecosystem History of South Florida component of the USGS¹s Ecosystem Program, and is one of a series of U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Reports on the ecosystem history of the South Florida region (Wingard and others, 1995; Brewster-Wingard and others, 1997; Ishman and others, 1996).

This report is preliminary and has not been reviewed for conformity with U.S. Geological Survey editorial standards or with the North American Stratigraphic Code. Any use of trade, product, or firm names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.

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Last Updated 05.17.99