Benthic foraminifera geochemistry as a monitoring tool for heavy metal and phosphorus pollution — A post fish-farm removal case study
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Measuring environmental contaminants in coastal areas is critical for monitoring and managing their impacts. Commonly used techniques involve repetitive field sampling, which provides a single moment in time during each effort. In this study, we examine the potential for using foraminifera in monitoring and risk assessment as recorders of bioavailable pollutants. Geochemical analysis of benthic foraminifera (Operculina ammonoides) shells sampled annually at a previous fish farm location showed extremely high levels of copper (Cu), zinc (Zn), and phosphorus (P) during the three years following the fish cages removal, with a general reduction afterwards. Levels of Cu/Ca were still more than 4-fold higher than background levels 10 years after the removal of the fish cages. Based on our finds, it is concluded that the geochemical analysis of recent benthic foraminifera shells can serve as a powerful monitoring tool of bioavailable contaminants in seawater. Additionally, the results highlight the need for heavy metal monitoring near marine aquaculture facilities and suggest that long-term effects extend spatially and temporally far beyond the original point source. Finally, we observed variations in micro-distribution of elements within the top 1-2 μm of the shells, where Cu/Ca, Zn/Ca and P/Ca are consistently higher in the chamber wall than in the septa. This observation is relevant for studies conducting single chamber analyses.
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