Ecological regime shifts in the marine realm have been recorded from a variety of systems and locations around the world. Coral reefs have been especially affected, with their benthic habitat changing from a dominance of stony corals to a dominance of other organisms such as fleshy algae. To detect changes in the benthic habitat of coral reefs, simple tools applicable on a global scale are necessary for future monitoring programs. Hence, the aim of this research is to explore the hypothesis that shifts in assemblages of large benthic foraminifera (LBF) can detect early signs of degradation in the reef benthic habitat. To do so, data on living assemblages of LBF collected between 1997 and 2018 at 12 islands in the Spermonde Archipelago (South Sulawesi, Indonesia) were analyzed. Foraminiferal specimens were morphologically identified to the species level and statistical analyses performed to assess changes in their assemblage composition. A clear temporal shift was observed. Typical foraminiferal assemblages in a coral-dominated (e.g., Amphistegina lobifera, Calcarina spengleri, Heterostegina depressa) and fleshy algaedominated (e.g., Neorotalia gaimardi, C. mayori) reef habitats were identified and significantly linked to the substrate type. Other species (e.g., Elphidium spp., Peneroplis planatus and Sphaerogypsina globulus) seem to reflect a spatial and temporal gradient of anthropogenic pollution from local inhabited islands and ongoing urban development on the mainland. Hence communities of LBF consistently follow gradual shifts in environmental conditions. Additionally to foraminiferal assemblages being an indicator for actual reef condition, closely monitoring LBF may provide early information on reef degradation, in time to take action against identified stressors (e.g., eutrophication or intensive fishing) at local and regional scales. The circumtropical distribution of LBF is such that they can be included worldwide in reef monitoring programs, conditional to calibration to the regional species pool.

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Science of The Total Environment

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Staff publications

Girard, E., Estradivari, Ferse, Sebastian, Ambo-Rappe, Rohani, Jompa, Jamaluddin, & Renema, W. (2022). Dynamics of large benthic foraminiferal assemblages: A tool to foreshadow reef degradation?. Science of The Total Environment, 811(151396). doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.151396