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Mar Pollut Bull. 2002 Jun;44(6):487-503.

Environmental transformation of the Bilbao estuary, N. Spain: microfaunal and geochemical proxies in the recent sedimentary record.

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  • 1Departamento de Estratigrafía y Paleontología, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad del País Vasco/EHU, Bilbao, Spain.


The distribution and abundance of benthic foraminifera and a range of elements have been analysed in six long cores (up to 10 m long) from the Bilbao estuary, N. Spain, to document environmental transformation of this estuarine ecosystem and to determine sediment contamination levels. Three different environmental zones could be distinguished in the recent sedimentary record based on its microfaunal and geochemical contents. Initially, a pre-industrial zone containing very abundant and diverse foraminiferal assemblages together with baseline metal levels. Secondly, an older industrial zone exhibiting co-existence of abundant and diverse foraminiferal assemblages with high concentrations of metals. Finally, a younger industrial zone with extreme concentrations of metals and barren of indigenous foraminifera. This environmental transformation has been caused by the discharge of untreated domestic and industrial effluents during the last 150 years. The occurrence of foraminifera in the two industrial zones and along the estuary is not related to defined levels of metals, and this seems to confirm oxygen limitation as the key factor to explain complete estuarine defaunation during deposition of the younger industrial zone (period 1950-2000). Effectiveness of current regeneration schemes could be assessed using microfaunal and geochemical proxies as environmental quality indicators.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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