Effects of chemically spiked sediments on estuarine benthic communities: a controlled mesocosm study
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- Balthis, W.L., Hyland, J.L., Fulton, M.H. et al. Environ Monit Assess (2010) 161: 191. doi:10.1007/s10661-008-0737-0
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Ambient sediments were collected from a reference site in the North Edisto River, SC and transferred to a laboratory facility to investigate effects of chemical contaminants on estuarine infaunal communities under controlled mesocosm conditions. Sediment contaminant slurries were prepared using dried sediments collected from the reference site and spiked with a metal (copper), a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (pyrene), and a pesticide (4,4′-dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) to yield nominal mean effects range–median (ERM) quotients of <0.01 (no addition), 0.1, and 1.0 and applied to control, low dose (TRT A), and high dose (TRT B) treatment groups, respectively. Sediment samples for contaminant and benthic analyses were collected at the start of the experiment, 1 month after dosing, and 3 months after dosing. Near-nominal mean ERM quotients of 0.001, 0.075, and 0.818 were measured initially after dosing and remained fairly constant throughout the experiment. Measures of benthic condition, diversity, and richness were significantly reduced in both treatment groups relative to the control 1 month after dosing and persisted in TRT B at 3 months. The results demonstrate that benthic community effects can be observed at mean ERM quotients that are about an order of magnitude lower than levels that have been shown to be associated with significant toxicity in acute laboratory bioassays with single species (e.g., amphipods) in other studies.