, Volume 180, Issue 1, pp 195–211 | Cite as

Pollution and tidal benthic communities of the James River Estuary, Virginia

  • Robert J. Diaz
Part Four: Community studies and population biology


Distribution of benthic communities in the estuarine portion of the James River was controlled mainly by salinity. Pollution effects were localized and difficult to assess because of a rigorous physical environment. Mesohaline and oligohaline communities were very similar to those in other estuaries of the eastern United States. Macrobenthic densities were most severely depressed in tidal freshwater habitats near Richmond & Hopewell, where the major portion of the pollution load enters the river. Cluster analysis of species distributional patterns and ordination of pollution and physical parameters produced similar results, dividing the river into mesohaline, oligohaline, and upper and lower tidal freshwater zones. Further analysis of only the tidal freshwater portion indicated the distribution of benthic communities reflected the location and concentration of pollution sources along the river. Tidal freshwater communities were dominated by the Asiatic clam, Corbicula fluminea, tubificid oligochaetes of the genus Limnodrilus and the chironomid insect larva Coelotanypus scapularis. The fauna of the freshwater zones was very eurytopic with respect to sediment type and has a great resemblance to the fauna of eutrophic lakes. The classical concept of a sharp increase in number of species occurring from oligohaline to freshwater zones was found to be misleading. This increase does not occur until free flowing (or lotic) freshwater areas of greater habitat diversity are reached.


estuaries tidal freshwater pollution impacts aquatic oligochaetes 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert J. Diaz
    • 1
  1. 1.Virginia Institute of Marine Science, School of Marine ScienceCollege of William and MaryVirginiaGloucester PointU.S.A.

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