This study examined the environmental factors that control the distribution of modern foraminiferal assemblages in the Everglades in order to provide baseline data for a paleoenvironmental study. Total assemblages from the surface 2 cm of 30 sites across the marsh and mangrove environments of southwest Florida were investigated. Eight environmental variables, including average salinity, salinity range, pH, total phosphorus, temperature, and dissolved oxygen, and total organic carbon and total inorganic carbon measured on bulk sediments, as well as the elevation and distance from the coastline were determined for each of the 30 sampling locations.
In total, 82 species were identified, the majority of which were calcareous. Diversity decreases, dominance increases, and agglutinated taxa increase from the coastline inland. Rotaliina are equally abundant across the intertidal environment, whereas Miliolina are common near the coast and in lagoons or inland lakes. The most important factor controlling foraminiferal distribution is total organic carbon, followed by total inorganic carbon, distance from coastline, total phosphorus, and salinity. Jadammina macrescens and Miliammina fusca indicate lower salinities (<15 psu). Good indicators for higher salinities are Haplophragmoides wilberti (10–20 psu) and Arenoparrella mexicana (10–20 psu and 28–30 psu). Ammonia spp. prefer salinities >15 psu and Elphidium spp. >20 psu. Ammonia tepida, Helenina anderseni, Trochammina inflata, and A. mexicana prefer organic-rich sediments. Thus, the benthic foraminifera from Everglades sediments are excellent salinity proxies and can be used to determine the history of habitat change in this area as well as to assess past trends in the rate of sea level rise.