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Emerging dominance of Paratrochammina simplissima (Cushman and McCulloch) in the northern Gulf of Mexico following hydrologic and geomorphic changes

May 14, 2021

Grand Bay estuary in coastal Mississippi and Alabama (USA) has undergone significant geomorphic changes over the last few centuries as a result of anthropogenic (bridge, road, and hardened shoreline construction) and climatic (extreme storm events) processes, which reduce freshwater input, sediment supply, and degrade barrier islands. To investigate how geomorphic changes may have altered the Grand Bay estuary, sediment push cores were collected for foraminiferal, sedimentological (organic matter content, grain-size distribution), and radiochemical (210Pb,137Cs, and 7Be) analyses. Clay normalized geochronologies were determined with a constant rate of supply model. Based on downcore age-depth relationships, select intervals were analyzed for foraminifera in order to assess alterations in the microfossil assemblage in Grand Bay estuary over the 20th Century. All estuarine samples were low diversity (species richness: 1–10; Fisher's alpha diversity: 0.14–1.75); two species, Ammotium salsum and Paratrochammina simplissima, dominated all downcore assemblages. Paratrochammina simplissima increased in abundance up-core from a minor subsidiary species (median = 4.7% at 19–20 cm) to dominant or co-dominant with A. salsum over the 20th and early 21st Centuries in six cores, comprising up to 60.7% of a single sample. The emerging dominance of P. simplissima since ~1950 along with the reduction of brackish-estuarine taxa and introduction of calcareous species signifies increased salinity and less marsh organic matter preserved in the sediments. While seasonal dissolution limits our ability to chronologically constrain the introduction of calcareous species, P. simplissima, a species not referenced in taxonomic data from the northern Gulf of Mexico until 2012, is well constrained, following its first occurrence in the 1930s.