Abstract

Habitat patterns of subtropical and tropical planktic foraminifers in the Caribbean Sea were obtained from plankton samples collected in spring 2009 and 2013. The spatial distribution in surface waters (3.5 m water depth) and depth habitat patterns (surface to 400 m) of 33 species were compared with prevailing water-mass conditions (temperature, salinity, and chlorophyll-a concentration) and planktic foraminiferal test assemblages in surface sediments. Distribution patterns indicate a significant relationship with seawater temperature and trophic conditions. A reduction in standing stocks was observed close to the Orinoco River plume and in the Gulf of Paria, associated with high turbidity and concomitant low surface-water salinity. In contrast, a transient mesoscale patch of high chlorophyll concentration in the eastern Caribbean Sea was associated with higher standing stocks in near surface waters, including high abundances of Globigerinita glutinata and Neogloboquadrina dutertrei. Globorotalia truncatulinoides mainly lives close to the seasonal pycnocline and can be linked to winter conditions indicated by lower sea-surface temperatures (SSTs) of ∼20°C. Globigerinoides sacculifer and Globoturborotalita rubescens were associated with oligotrophic conditions in the pelagic Caribbean Sea during early spring and showed a synodic lunar reproduction cycle. The live assemblages in the water column from 2009 and 2013 were similar to those reported in earlier studies from the 1960s and 1990s and to assemblages of tests in the surface sediments. Minor differences in faunal proportions were attributed to seasonal variability and environmental differences at the local scale. An exception was the low relative abundance of Globigerinoides ruber in the Caribbean Sea in 2009 compared to surface sediment samples and plankton net samples collected in the 1960s and 1990s. Decreasing abundance of Gs. ruber white in the Caribbean Sea may be associated with increasing SSTs over past decades and changes in nutrient flux and primary production.

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