Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Marine Science

Major Professor

Pamela Hallock Muller, Ph.D.


Foraminifera, Foram index, Sedcon index, Stony coral rapid bioassessment protocol, SECREMP


A goal of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is to develop protocols applicable to coral reefs to distinguish between the effects of local water quality and those associated with regional to global environmental change. One test case is the current-dominated southeast coast of Florida where the Delray Outfall delivers 30 million gallons per day (114,000 cubic meters per day) of secondary-treated sewage into the ocean. Five study sites were established at depths between 15 and 18 m, and at distances between 1 and 18 km distance from the outfall, where the Stony Coral Rapid Bioassessment Protocol (RBP) was conducted to determine coral cover and selected other parameters. During sampling, 29 surface sediment samples were collected that I analyzed with respect to sediment texture, foraminiferal assemblages, and sediment constituents. Most samples were characterized by fine sands with <2% mud.

A total of 77 genera of foraminifers were identified, averaging 28 genera per sample. Abundances of foraminiferal shells varied among samples by more than an order of magnitude (83 to 1010 shells per g sediment). The Foraminifera in Reef Assessment and Monitoring (FORAM) Index was calculated from the foraminiferal data, yielding values of 3 or more for all sites, with 26 of the 29 test sites yielding values >4, indicating that water quality should support coral growth. Sediment constituent analyses revealed that the sediments were overwhelmingly dominated by unidentifiable fragments (60%), with molluscan debris second (20%), and calcareous algae third (4.5%); larger foraminiferal shells and coral fragments together made up less than 5.5%. The resulting sediment constituent (SEDCON) Index was consistently <2, indicating that erosional processes dominate over sediment production along the sampled shelf area.

Results provided by the FORAM and SEDCON indices are consistent with results for stony coral based on the RBP. Stony coral cover was low at all sites, <2%, indicating that coral occurs in the area but neither dominates the benthos nor builds reefs. No relationship was observed between any parameter and distance from the Delray Outfall. However, both the RBP and FORAM Index indicated poorest conditions at the Horseshoe site, suggesting unidentified stressors in that vicinity.