Understanding ecological dependencies in planktonic foraminifera: A role for the microbiome under climate change

Funded by The Carnegie Trust.

Collaboration with MacEwan University and University of Edinburgh.

Accurate reconstruction of past climates based on fossil foraminiferal assemblages and shell geochemical signatures, depends on a thorough understanding of species-specific ecological dependencies in present day populations. These include trophic and symbiotic interactions, habitat preferences and biogeographical distributions. Moreover, the calcitic shells of planktonic foraminifera make a significant contribution to the marine carbonate budget. However, they are particularly susceptible to the effects of climate change, as oceans acidify and accurate modelling of their future fate is reliant on understanding their ecological preferences.

Despite their importance, reliable ecological information is currently lacking for many species of planktonic foraminifera across the marine biomes. This is particularly true of the high latitude planktonic foraminifera frequenting the polar and sub-polar seas. Here, there is an urgent requirement to understand current ecosystem functioning, biodiversity, and to project climatic changes accurately. This is because these high latitude regions are undergoing disproportionate warming of surface water, sea-ice decline, and decreasing ocean pH. This project will therefore focus on providing much-needed ecological data for foraminiferal populations in polar and sub-polar seas, benefiting scientists working on palaeoclimate reconstructions, climate change modelling, and ecosystem biology.

Total award value £9,842.40

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Dr Clare Bird

Dr Clare Bird

Senior Lecturer, BES