, Volume 121, Issue 1-3, pp 181-212
Date: 02 Jun 2006

Habitat Conditions and Correlations of Sediment Quality Triad Indicators in Delaware Bay

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This paper summarizes sampling results from NOAA's National Status and Trends (NS&T) Program for marine environmental quality in Delaware Bay. A stratified-random design was used to determine the spatial extent of sediment contamination and toxicity in Delaware Bay from offshore stations in the coastal zone, the lower estuary, the upper estuary, the fresh/salt mixing zone, and tidal fresh areas. Sediment samples were taken for chemical analyses of major classes of environmental contaminants, a suite of toxicity bioassays, and benthic macrofaunal community assessment to identify patterns of resident species. The tidal-fresh areas and portions of the mixing zone of the study area were heavily contaminated. Contaminant concentrations were frequently above the 90th percentile of EMAP Virginian Province levels. PAHs in the sediment were higher than previously documented, with a major component of PAHs being pyrogenic in origin. Bioassay results were highly variable. Toxicity and contaminant levels were correlated when aggregated into indices, but were only marginally correlated with benthic community impacts. High and low abundance stations were found in all zones. Most of the tidal fresh stations were dominated by pollution tolerant species. Species diversity and abundance were generally lowest in the fresh/salt mixing zone.