Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 1463–1477 | Cite as

A Re-assessment of Narragansett Bay Benthic Habitat Quality Between 1988 and 2008

  • Emily J. Shumchenia
  • Marisa L. Guarinello
  • John W. King


The first bay-wide synoptic survey of benthic habitat quality in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, USA, was conducted in August of 1988. Twenty years later, we revisited the same sampling locations as the original survey using similar sediment profile imagery technology and analysis tools. Like estuaries throughout the US, increased temperatures and reductions to anthropogenic nutrient inputs have cumulatively affected Narragansett Bay in the intervening 20 years. To understand how these changes may have influenced benthic organic enrichment and habitat quality, we compared the prevalence and spatial arrangement of benthic biotopes (i.e., biotic and abiotic benthic descriptions) between 1988 and 2008 surveys. Biotopes dominated by Ampelisca spp. tubiculous amphipods increased >fivefold between 1988 and 2008, and expanded into the more urban, anthropogenically stressed Providence River estuary. Ampelisca beds occurred at critical boundaries in organic enrichment and habitat quality in both years and indicated the quantity of organic matter reaching the benthos. In general, benthic biotopes reflect the degree of benthic-pelagic coupling and are an important link between estuarine water quality and other marine life. As estuaries globally cope with the effects of increased warming and legislated anthropogenic nutrient reductions, rapid assessments of benthic biotopes will be critical for understanding changes to whole-estuary condition as a result of these cumulative stressors.


Benthic habitat Biotope Narragansett bay Climate change Organic enrichment 



We wish to thank the authors of the 1988 study for their guidance and recommendations in conducting this re-assessment. Giancarlo Cicchetti provided guidance on comparing SPI images in general and on biotope classifications from SPI. We also wish to thank Sheldon Pratt, who kept the original sediment profile images from the 1988 study. Two anonymous reviewers also greatly improved this manuscript.


Partial funding for this project was provided by the Rhode Island Sea Grant Award #NA10OAR4170076 for the Narragansett BayMap Project. The King Lab at the University of Rhode Island, Graduate School of Oceanography, donated use of all of the equipment, vessel, support personnel time, as well as a portion of the analysis for the 2008 study. The US EPA Office of Water and Region 1 funded additional support for analysis, interpretation, and writing. Although this research was partially funded by the US EPA, the views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the Agency.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

12237_2016_95_MOESM1_ESM.xlsx (59 kb)
ESM 1 (XLSX 58 kb)


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily J. Shumchenia
    • 1
    • 2
  • Marisa L. Guarinello
    • 1
    • 3
  • John W. King
    • 1
  1. 1.Graduate School of OceanographyUniversity of Rhode IslandNarragansettUSA
  2. 2.E&C Enviroscape, LLCAshawayUSA
  3. 3.INSPIRE EnvironmentalNewportUSA

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