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Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 404–420 | Cite as

Multi-Century Record of Anthropogenic Impacts on an Urbanized Mesotidal Estuary: Salem Sound, MA

  • J. Bradford Hubeny
  • Ellen Kristiansen
  • Andrew Danikas
  • Jun Zhu
  • Francine M. G. McCarthy
  • Mark G. Cantwell
  • Barbara Warren
  • Douglas Allen
Article

Abstract

Salem, MA, located north of Boston, has a rich, well-documented history dating back to settlement in 1626 ce, but the associated anthropogenic impacts on Salem Sound are poorly constrained. This project utilized dated sediment cores from the sound to assess the proxy record of anthropogenic alterations to the system and compared the proxy records to the known history. Proxies included bulk stable isotopes of organic matter, magnetic susceptibility, and trace metal concentrations. Our data reveal clear changes in organic matter composition and concentration associated with land use changes and twentieth century sewage disposal practices. Further, metal data correspond with local industrial activity, particularly the historic tanning industry in Peabody, MA. Although conservation practices of past decades have improved the state of Salem Sound, the stratigraphic record demonstrates that the environment is still affected by anthropogenic influences, and has not attained conditions consistent with pre-anthropogenic baseline. The approach and results of this study are applicable to coastal embayments that are being assessed for remediation, especially those with scant historic or monitoring data.

Keywords

Sewage effluent Legacy contaminant Stable isotopes Sediment core Anthropocene 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This project was supported by Salem Sound Coastwatch with funding from the Northeast Coastal Monitoring Collaborative which received Congressional funding, and we acknowledge the support of Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry as well as Congressmen John Tierney, Nikki Tsongas, and Bill Delahunt. Additional support from National Science Foundation (EAR 1126128) is acknowledged. JBH acknowledges support from the SSU Academic Affairs Office, SSU College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, D Sutherland, KCH, JCH, and LTH. We acknowledge helpful discussions on the history of the region with EW Baker, S Matchak, and D Morrison. Constructive comments by Associate Editor DR Corbett, W Gardner, R Knudstup, and three anonymous reviewers have made this a stronger contribution.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geological SciencesSalem State UniversitySalemUSA
  2. 2.Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control BoardLos AngelesUSA
  3. 3.Earth Sciences DepartmentBrock UniversitySt. CatharinesCanada
  4. 4.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and DevelopmentNarragansettUSA
  5. 5.Salem Sound CoastwatchSalemUSA

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