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Much of the bathymetry of the southern part of San Francisco Bay reflects the drainage pattern of late Pleistocene streams. Holocene estuarine silt and clay cover most of the bay floor; relict eolian and deltaic sand occurs along the eastern shore; sandy patches are present in the main channel owing to higher tidal current velocities. Organic content is high along the western shore, where tidal flats are extensive, and in the slough at the mouth of Coyote Creek where wastewaters discharge.

Thirty-one species of benthonic foraminifera were identified in surficial sediments of San Francisco Bay estuary; of these, 20 species were stained red by rose Bengal and are considered as live. Water depth, sediment textural characteristics, salinity, organic matter, sediment pH, and biological competition were considered as factors that might affect distribution of foraminifera. Four ecologic zones based on observed trends in the distribution and abundance of several species correlate well with some environmental factors. Four groups based on the Q-mode analysis of frequency counts of foraminiferal assemblages are reasonably similar to the four ecologic zones. These zones, showing restricted depth ranges, are: Inner Coastal Zone, where Elphidium incertum obscurum and Trochammina inflata are prominent; Outer Coastal Zone, dominated by Ammonia beccarii tepida and Elphidium incertum; Deep Bay Zone, where Elphidiella hannai, Elphidium incertum clavatum, Hopkinsina pacifica, and Bolivina spp. appear in abundance; and Deep Channel Zone, where Elphidiella hannai is most abundant. In the Inner Coastal Zone, salinity due to large fluctuations is a limiting factor for many species. Substrate textural characteristics are primary determinants of the distribution of agglutinated fora-minifers. The percentage of organic matter in the sediment correlates well with the abundance of Elphidium incertum obscurum, a ubiquitous species in San Francisco Bay. Sediment pH is not critical. Biologic competition can be estimated by comparing the percentage of a species with the number of species present in the assemblage, as shown for Ammonia beccarii tepida and Elphidiella hannai.

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