The challenge of choosing environmental indicators of anthropogenic impacts in estuaries

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Daffron, KA, Simpson, SL, Kelaher, BP, Clark, GF, Komyakova, V, Wong, CKC & Johnston, EL 2012, 'The challenge of choosing environmental indicators of anthropogenic impacts in estuaries', Environmental Pollution, vol. 163, pp. 207-217.

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Ecological assessments over large spatial scales require that anthropogenic impacts be distinguishable above natural variation, and that monitoring tools are implemented to maximise impact detection and minimise cost. For three heavily modified and four relatively ‘pristine’ estuaries (disturbance category), chemical indicators (metals and PAHs) of anthropogenic stress were measured in benthic sediments, suspended sediments and deployed oysters, together with other environmental variables. These were compared with infaunal and hard-substrate invertebrate communities. Univariate analyses were useful for comparing contaminant loads between different monitoring tools and identified the strongest relationships between benthic and suspended sediments. However, multivariate analyses were necessary to distinguish ecological response to anthropogenic stressors from environmental “noise” over a large spatial scale and to identify sites that were being impacted by contaminants. These analyses provide evidence that suspended sediments are a useful alternative monitoring tool to detect potential anthropogenic impacts on benthic (infaunal and hard-substrate) communities.