The challenge of choosing environmental indicators of anthropogenic impacts in estuaries

Katherine A. Dafforn*, Stuart L. Simpson, Brendan P. Kelaher, Graeme F. Clark, Valeriya Komyakova, Chris K C WONG, Emma L. Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

96 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-217
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Pollution
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Toxicology
  • Pollution
  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis

User-Defined Keywords

  • Biomonitor
  • Contaminant
  • Estuary
  • Metals
  • Sediment


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