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Patterns and Rates of Recovery of Macrobenthic Communities in a Polyhaline Temperate Estuary Following Sediment Disturbance: Effects of Disturbance Severity and Potential Importance of Non-local Processes

Abstract

Community-level responses of soft sediment macrobenthos to two relatively large-scale disturbance events associated with dredged material (DM) disposal are examined for subtidal (>10 m) lower Chesapeake Bay. Disturbance severity (DM thickness on initial sampling date following disposal) and date of sampling were important factors explaining the patterns and rates of recovery for species richness, abundance, biomass, and community composition, but sediment disposal had minimal effects when DM thickness was ≤15 cm. It took 1.5 years or less following the cessation of disposal activities for richness, abundance, biomass and community composition at high disposal severity (DM > 15 cm) to attain levels measured at reference stations representing the ambient community of the region. Positive correlations of community structure metrics between the disposal area and reference stations provide evidence that non-local processes influenced patterns of recovery in this estuarine setting. Species interactions and food limitation may also have been important at local scales.

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Acknowledgments

This is contribution number 3094 of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science. Former graduate students and staff of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) contributed to the success of this project. Robert Diaz and Robert Byrne of VIMS, Robert Blama of the Baltimore District of the US Army Corps of Engineers, and John Lunz and Douglas Clarke of the US Army Corps of Engineers, Waterways Experiment Station were involved in the initial stages of planning for the study. Robert Diaz did the initial mapping of the dredged material overburdens for the study area. David Gillett (VIMS) assisted with the SAS statistical analyses and also provided a review of an earlier draft of the manuscript. Alice Brylawski (VIMS) edited an earlier draft. The US Army Corps of Engineers, Baltimore District and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science supported this work.

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Correspondence to Linda C. Schaffner.

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Schaffner, L.C. Patterns and Rates of Recovery of Macrobenthic Communities in a Polyhaline Temperate Estuary Following Sediment Disturbance: Effects of Disturbance Severity and Potential Importance of Non-local Processes. Estuaries and Coasts 33, 1300–1313 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-010-9301-6

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Keywords

  • Macrobenthos
  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Disturbance
  • Dredged material disposal
  • Resistance
  • Resilience