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Environ Manage. 2003 Aug;32(2):171-88.

Minimizing impacts of maintenance dredged material disposal in the coastal environment: a habitat approach.

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  • 1The Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Remembrance Avenue, Burnham-on-Crouch, Essex CM0 8SY, UK.


At present, coastal disposal of maintenance dredged material constitutes one of the most important problems in coastal zone management and in some coastal areas represents the major anthropogenic disturbance to the benthos. In this review we first propose, based on the classic literature, that macrofaunal communities typical of environmentally stressed habitats are more resilient than those of more environmentally stable habitats, and we outline the macrofaunal successional changes following a disturbance. Second, from a review and analysis of the published and unpublished literature on macrofaunal recovery following maintenance dredged material deposition in the coastal environment, we compare the successional sequences and recovery rates in euhaline and polyhaline systems. The review reveals that invertebrate recovery following dredged material disposal in relatively unstressed marine environments generally takes between 1 and 4 years, while in more naturally stressed areas, recovery is generally achieved within 9 months, although deeper polyhaline habitats can take up to 2 years to recover. Differences in recovery times are attributed to the number of successional stages required to regain the original community composition and that species typical of naturally unstressed assemblages do not possess life-history traits to allow rapid recolonization of disturbances. In the last section of this review, the management implications of these findings are discussed in terms of minimizing dredged material disposal impacts on fisheries resources. Since the natural disturbance regime appears to be very important in determining the response of a benthic community following dredged material disposal, it is recommended that when predicting the potential environmental impact of an operation, the nature of the physical environment in combination with the status (and role) of associated marine benthic communities should be considered.

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