, Volume 7, Issue 3, pp 229-246

Impact of bleached kraft pulp mill effluent on benthic community structure in relation to environmental factors

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In this study, we assessed the impact of bleachedkraft pulp mill effluent (BKME) on the distributionand composition of benthic communities at JackfishBay, Lake Superior. Sediment samples were collectedfrom 44 stations from which several environmentalvariables (extractable organic chlorine [EOCl],metals, organic carbon, particle size, secchi depth,and water depth) and benthic community compositionwere determined. Relationships between environmentalvariables and benthic community structure wereassessed using canonical correspondence analysis(CCA). CCA revealed two distinct biological gradientsat Jackfish Bay, the first associated with degradedbottom sediments and nutrient enrichment and thesecond associated with water depth. Both gradientsrevealed three distinct regions at Jackfish Bay: 1) anarea of highly degraded sediments, located 300–1200 mbelow the outfall, 2) a small, mesotrophic (nutrientenriched) area adjacent to this zone, and 3) remainingareas of Jackfish Bay, including the internalreference sites in Tunnel Bay. Sediments in theimpaired region contained high concentrations oforganic matter (7–21% as loss on ignition [LOI]) andEOCl (up to 5200 mg/kg dw); together these variablesaccounted for 73% of the variation associated withthe first canonical axis of the CCA. This region wasdominated by the oligochaetes Tubifex tubifexand Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri (64–100% of thebenthic community). Sediments in the second regionwere characterized by an abundant and diverse benthiccommunity comprised of benthic harpacticoids,Chironomidae, and oligochaetes. Stations outside ofthese two regions were characterized by a benthiccommunity similar in composition to that expected foroligotrophic Lake Superior waters, including Diporiea sp., Stylodrilus heringianus, Mysis relicta, Sphaerium, Pisidium and benthicharpacticoids. Based on a Monte Carlo significancetest, benthic community structure was significantly(p = 0.01) related to the environmental variablescomprising the first axis of the CCA. Water depth wasthe most important explanatory variable associatedwith the second axis of the CCA; both taxa richnessand abundance declined significantly with increasingdepth. The comprehensive approach employed in thisstudy clearly delineated the occurrence and degree ofimpact on the benthic environment and may be useful infuture risk assessments of sites affected byanthropogenic activity.