Hydrobiologia

, Volume 112, Issue 2, pp 143–160 | Cite as

Influence of pollution on the harpacticoid copepods of two North Sea estuaries

  • D. van Damme
  • C. Heip
  • K. A. Willems
Article

Abstract

Seasonal monitoring of the meiobenthos in the Dutch estuaries revealed an anomaly in density and diversity of harpacticoid copepods in the Westerschelde.

Another Dutch estuary, the Eems Dollard, has comparable hydrodynamical, physical and sedimentological, characteristics and a similar fauna, but even in the severely organically polluted oligohaline mudflats of this estuary, annual average density and diversity of endo-epibenthic harpacticoid communities are higher than at similar less enriched meso- to polyhaline biotopes of the Westerschelde.

Besides the concentrations of inorganic pollutants, such as phosphates and nitrates, the concentrations of pesticides, cyanide, detergents, phenoles, oils, polychlorobenzenes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and heavy metals were compared in both estuaries and compared to suggested permissive levels when available. From this it appears that these pollutants are present in the Westerschelde either in too low concentrations to be considered dangerous or at concentrations comparable to those occurring in the Eems Dollard, except for heavy metals.

The load of a.o. Zn, Cu and Pb is distinctly and persistently higher in sediments and suspensions of the Westerschelde than in the Eems Dollard and copper is continuously present in a concentration at which, according to bioassays, egg production and larval development of planktonic copepods are severely affected. The remarkable scarcity of harpacticoid life on nutrient rich mudflats of the Westerschelde is thus probably due to heavy metal pollution.

Since no other hardbodied meio- and macrobenthic taxa nor the plankton of this estuary show such a marked impoverishment, benthic harpacticoids prove to be suitable as indicators for the first stages of ecosystem-breakdown in estuarine and coastal zones polluted by trace-metals.

Keywords

copepoda pollution estuaries North Sea 

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Copyright information

© Dr W. Junk Publishers 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • D. van Damme
    • 1
  • C. Heip
    • 1
  • K. A. Willems
    • 1
  1. 1.Sectie Mariene Biologie, Lab. voor Morfologie & SystematiekRijksuniversiteitGentBelgium

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