, Volume 56, Issue 1, pp 27-49

An Assessment of the Ecological Condition of Long Island Sound, 1990–1993

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Abstract

Data from the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program (EMAP) from 1990 to 1993 were used to assess the condition of the Long Island Sound (LIS) estuary. Ambient water, sediment and biota were collected during the summer months from 53 LIS stations using an unbiased sampling design. The design consists of two LIS subunits, LIS proper, and small estuaries (<2.6 km2) at the margins of the Sound. Selected indicators of condition included: benthic species composition, abundance and biomass; fish species composition and gross external pathology; sediment physical and chemical characterization and sediment toxicity; and water clarity and quality. Results of the four-year sampling indicated that 28(±11)% of the areal extent of LIS proper had a benthic index < zero (impacted) and 51(±12)% of the area of small estuaries was impacted. Analysis of the results of other indicators also shows that small estuaries were particularly affected. For example, 42(±10)% of the areal extent of small estuaries exhibited sediment toxicity, and significant chemical contamination was evident in 22% of the area of small estuaries. Low dissolved oxygen (D.O.) concentrations (<5 ppm), however, appeared to affect only the deeper open waters of western LIS. Approximately 48(±12)% of the areal extent of LIS proper documented exposure to at least moderate D.O. stress (<5 ppm). The overall results of this monitoring study indicate that significant anthropogenic impacts have occurred in LIS and that if remediation was to take place, specific localized sediment problems would need attention. Point source and non-point source nutrient inputs to the Sound, which are believed to be the primary causative factor for the observed hypoxic conditions, would also need attention.