Geochemical signatures of benthic foraminiferal shells from a heat-polluted shallow marine environment provide field evidence for growth and calcification under extreme warmth Academic Article uri icon


  • Shallow marine calcifiers play an important role as marine ecosystem engineers and in the global carbon cycle. Understanding their response to warming is essential to evaluate the fate of marine ecosystems under global change scenarios. A rare opportunity to test the effect of warming acting on natural ecosystems is by investigation of heat-polluted areas. Here, we study growth and calcification in benthic foraminifera that inhabit a thermally polluted coastal area in Israel, where they are exposed to elevated temperatures reaching up to ~42°C in summer. Live specimens of two known heat-tolerant species Lachlanella sp. 1 and Pararotalia calcariformata were collected over a period of 1 year from two stations, representing thermally polluted and undisturbed (control) shallow hard bottom habitats. Single-chamber element ratios of these specimens were obtained using laser ablation, and the Mg/Ca of the most recently grown final chambers were used to calculate their calcification temperatures. Our results provide the first direct field evidence that these foraminifera species not only persist at extreme warm temperatures but continue to calcify and grow. Species-specific Mg/Ca thermometry indicates that P. calcariformata precipitate their shells at temperatures as high as 40°C and Lachlanella sp. 1 at least up to 36°C, but both species show a threshold for calcification at cold temperatures: calcification in P. calcariformata only occurred above 22°C and in Lachlanella sp. 1 above 15°C. Our observations from the heat-polluted area indicate that under future warming scenarios, calcification in heat-tolerant foraminifera species will not be inhibited during summer, but instead the temperature window for their calcification will be expanded throughout much of the year. The observed inhibition of calcification at low temperatures indicates that the role of heat-tolerant foraminifera in carbonate production will most likely increase in future decades.

publication date

  • January 1, 2017