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Mar Pollut Bull. 2004 Jul;49(1-2):43-60.

Benthic changes during 10 years of organic enrichment by McMurdo Station, Antarctica.

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  • 1Canadian Museum of Nature, P.O. Box 3443, Station D, Ottawa, Ont. K1P 6P4, Canada.


A benthic habitat along the coast of McMurdo Station in the Ross Sea, Antarctica is enriched by sewage from the station and altered by hydrocarbons and heavy metals in an adjacent historic dumpsite. We report on 10 years of change in the benthic communities from 1988 to 1998 and compare enrichment effects at Australia's Casey Station, East Antarctica. Despite being 14 km apart, reference communities upcurrent and downcurrent of McMurdo Station remained closely similar over time, dominated in all years by a tube building polychaete, Spiophanes tcherniae. The community bordering McMurdo Station was generally a third as abundant as communities at the reference sites over the decade of sampling, although diversity was as high or higher, except in the most contaminated areas. In 1992, organic enrichment of the outfall community intensified and within the year, the opportunistic polychaetes Aphelochaeta sp., Ophryotrocha notialis, Capitella perarmata, and Leitoscoloplos kerguelensis became dominant. Since 1996, two of the three enriched communities have increased in resemblance to the reference communities. Given the observed responsiveness of the benthos to the outfall so far, further changes are anticipated within the year following implementation of sewage treatment in 2003. Organic enrichment by McMurdo Station has had a greater impact on benthic community structure than at Australia's Casey Station.

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