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Ecotoxicology. 2006 Oct;15(7):573-81. Epub 2006 Sep 23.

An evaluation of contaminated estuarine sites using sediment quality guidelines and ecological assessment methodologies.

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Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research, NOAA, 219 Ft. Johnson Road, Charleston, SC 29412, USA.


Toxic contaminants may enter estuarine ecosystems through a variety of pathways. When sediment contaminant levels become sufficiently high, they may impact resident biota. One approach to predict sediment-associated toxicity in estuarine ecosystems involves the use of sediment quality guidelines (ERMs, ERLs) and site-specific contaminant chemistry while a second approach utilizes site-specific ecological sampling to assess impacts at the population or community level. The goal of this study was to utilize an integrated approach including chemical contaminant analysis, sediment quality guidelines and grass shrimp population monitoring to evaluate the impact of contaminants from industrial sources. Three impacted sites and one reference site were selected for study. Grass shrimp populations were sampled using a push-netting approach. Sediment samples were collected at each site and analyzed for metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and pesticides. Contaminant levels were then compared to sediment quality guidelines. In general, grass shrimp population densities at the sites decreased as the ERM quotients increased. Grass shrimp densities were significantly reduced at the impacted site that had an ERM exceedance for chromium and the highest Mean ERM quotient. Regression analysis indicated that sediment chromium concentrations were negatively correlated with grass shrimp density. Grass shrimp size was reduced at two sites with intermediate levels of contamination. These findings support the use of both sediment quality guidelines and site-specific population monitoring to evaluate the impacts of sediment-associated contaminants in estuarine systems.

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