Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 185, Issue 10, pp 8777–8802 | Cite as

Benthic foraminiferal response to trace element pollution—the case study of the Gulf of Milazzo, NE Sicily (Central Mediterranean Sea)

  • Claudia Cosentino
  • Fabrizio PepeEmail author
  • Giovanna Scopelliti
  • Monica Calabrò
  • Antonio Caruso


The response of benthic foraminiferal assemblages to trace element pollution in the marine sediments of the Gulf of Milazzo (north-eastern Sicily) was investigated. Since the 1960s, this coastal area has been a preferred site for the development of two small marinas and a commercial harbour as well as for heavy industry. Forty samples collected in the uppermost 3–4 cm of an undisturbed layer of sediment in the littoral environment were used for this benthic foraminiferal analysis. The enrichment factors (EFs) of selected trace elements (As, Co, Cr, Cu, Mn, Ni, Pb and Zn) were also calculated. Changes both in benthic foraminiferal assemblages and in some trace elements concentrations have provided evidence that the gulf’s littoral zone can be subdivided into three sectors characterised by environmental changes in the marine ecosystem. In the sector unpolluted, close to the Milazzo Cape, foraminiferal assemblages exhibit high values of species richness and foraminiferal density while trace element concentrations and their EFs are very low. Here, the highest densities of Miliolids and epiphytic species are present. On the contrary, in the sector polluted, from the marinas to the crude oil refinery, foraminiferal density and species diversity are low, and assemblages are dominated, albeit with very low densities, by species that tolerate stressed environmental conditions, such as LOFAs, agglutinants and Ammonia spp. Here, the highest trace elements concentrations of Pb, Zn and Cu and related EFs were detected. Eastwards, in the sector moderately polluted, foraminiferal populations are quite poor. They are characterised by low values of species richness and foraminiferal densities, nevertheless trace element concentrations become lower than in the other sectors and their EFs are often below 1. Deformed foraminifera, with percentages up to 7.14 %, were found in all three of the sectors. Differences in benthic foraminiferal assemblages, coupled with results from statistical analysis, indicate that anthropogenic trace element pollution could be considered as one of the most important causes of the modifications of foraminiferal assemblages in the study area.


Benthic foraminifera Trace elements Aberrant tests Marine pollution Offshore northern Sicily Gulf of Milazzo 



The authors would like to thank Ms. Cassandra Funsten for reviewing the text's English. We are very grateful to the two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. The research was funded by MIUR grants n. 2010RMTLYR_001 (A. Caruso team leader) and by grants from F. Pepe.

Supplementary material

10661_2013_3292_MOESM1_ESM.doc (26 kb)
ESM Appendix 1 (DOC 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Claudia Cosentino
    • 1
  • Fabrizio Pepe
    • 1
    Email author
  • Giovanna Scopelliti
    • 1
  • Monica Calabrò
    • 2
  • Antonio Caruso
    • 1
  1. 1.Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra e del MareUniversità di PalermoPalermoItaly
  2. 2.Dipartimento di Scienze Ambientali, Informatica e StatisticaUniversità Cà Foscari VeneziaVeniceItaly

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