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Towards a formal description of foraminiferal assemblage formation in shallow-water environments: Qualitative and quantitative concepts

Berkeley, A and Perry, CT and Smithers, SG and Hoon, S (2014) Towards a formal description of foraminiferal assemblage formation in shallow-water environments: Qualitative and quantitative concepts. Marine Micropaleontology, 112. ISSN 0377-8398

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Abstract

© 2014 Elsevier B.V. The use of foraminifera in palaeoenvironmental reconstructions (e.g. sea level) may be complicated by processes such as infaunal test production, taphonomic degradation and bioturbation which act to modify contemporary analogue (surface) assemblages during and subsequent to burial. Understanding the palaeoenvironmental significance of these processes is limited by the absence of a clear theoretical description of the mechanics of foraminiferal assemblage formation. A conceptual framework is proposed which describes assemblage formation in terms of the balance of test inputs and losses within a volume of sediment undergoing burial through the upper sedimentary zones of test production, taphonomic processes and bioturbation. A corresponding mathematical model is described and shown to explain empirical dead test distributions in terms of empirically-defined standing crops, sedimentation and mixing rates, together with model estimates of standing crop turnover and/or taphonomic decay rates. This approach provides a quantitative basis for understanding assemblage formation and for comparing assemblage forming processes between species, environments and study sites. Rates of standing crop turnover and taphonomic loss are identified as the primary unknowns in the study of foraminiferal assemblage formation. These multiple unknowns make interpretations of cored data ambiguous, emphasising the need for a detailed and coherent framework of theory and assumptions for understanding the mechanics assemblage formation if interpretations are to be clear and conclusive.

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