One of the challenges in monitoring the marine coastal environments is quantifying the magnitude and duration of pollution events. This study introduces a new concept of defining heavy metal (HM) baseline assessment levels (BALs) in coastal environments using foraminiferal shells. We demonstrated the potential of this approach by examining a nature reserve along the Mediterranean coast of Israel. Our previous investigation of this site in 2013–2014 using foraminiferal single-chamber LA-ICPMS created a large dataset consisting of HM measurements of two species, Lachlanella and Pararotalia calcariformata. This database was used to establish the BAL of Zn, Cu and Pb, associated with anthropogenic sources. In February 2021, a significant tar pollution event affected the entire Mediterranean coast of Israel, derived from an offshore oil spill. This event provided a unique opportunity to test the applicability of the foraminiferal BAL by comparing it to whole-shell ICPMS measurements of the two species collected in winter and summer 2021. Results reveal a significant increase (2–34-fold) in the three HMs between 2013–2014 and 2021, with Pb/Ca displaying the most prominent increase in both species. This suggests a possible linkage between the oil spill event and the significantly elevated metal/Ca ratios in 2021.
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- benthic foraminifera
- heavy metals
- marine monitoring
- oil spill
- single-chamber LA-ICPMS
- whole-shell ICPMS