MEPS 225:109-121 (2002)  -  doi:10.3354/meps225109

Organic pollution and its effects: a short-term transplant experiment to assess the ability of biological endpoints to detect change in a soft sediment environment

Liz Morris*, Michael J. Keough

Department of Zoology, University of Melbourne, Victoria 3010, Australia

ABSTRACT: A wide variety of endpoints or metrics are commonly employed in pollution monitoring situations but, to date, there have been very few experimental field studies aimed at assessing links between a putative pollutant and established soft sediment assemblages. We carried out a manipulative field experiment whereby intact assemblages were transplanted from control areas to sites adjacent to drains discharging secondary treated sewage effluent at 3 intertidal outfall locations in Port Phillip Bay, Victoria, Australia. We found that the ability of different measures to detect impacts varied, although multivariate methods were able to discriminate the effects of treatment, and population level measures tended to be more sensitive than assemblage level measures of abundance, biomass and diversity. Integrated measures, such as average individual biomass, were found to provide a sensitive detection tool plus an insight into the biological consequences of observed changes. We consider our findings in the light of conceptual models of pollution-induced change in soft sediment assemblages.


KEY WORDS: Benthic · Sewage · Pollution monitoring · Intertidal · Field experiment · Soft sediment · Endpoint · Taxonomic distinctness


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