Benthic foraminifera can be used as environmental bioindicators, especially in polluted environments where their sensitivity to pollutants may be expressed by a modification in the assemblage. Nineteen sediment samples were collected in November 2002 from surficial sediments of the Gulf of Izmir (Turkey). The Gulf of Izmir is located in Western Turkey and surrounded by a densely populated community. The gulf has been contaminated by numerous heavy metals, but geochemical analyses have shown that metals are significant pollutants only in the inner part of the gulf. Outer and Middle Sections showed low levels of heavy metals, except the estuary of Gediz River. Eight heavy metals have been analyzed in all the sampling points. Sixty-seven foraminifer and 22 ostracod species were identified in 16 sediment samples. Statistical analysis shows that there is a significant correlation between foraminifera. species and heavy metals. The most polluted Inner Sections are dominated by the tolerant species Ammonia tepida that may be used as pollution indicator. The gradient observed in heavy metal concentrations between the Outer and Inner Sections has a prevalent influence on the foraminiferal distribution. There is a gradient of the number of species, increasing from the Inner Section toward the Outer Section. The occurrence of test abnormalities among foraminifera. may represent a useful biomarker for evaluating long-term environmental impacts in a coastal region. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.