Measuring the acute toxicity of estuarine sediments

Authors

  • Theodore H. Dewitt,

    Corresponding author
    1. Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon 97365
    • Oregon State University, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon 97365
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  • Richard C. Swartz,

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ERL-Narragansett, Pacific Division, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon 97365
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  • Janet O. Lamberson

    1. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, ERL-Narragansett, Pacific Division, Hatfield Marine Science Center, Newport, Oregon 97365
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Abstract

Estuarine sediments frequently are repositories and sources of anthropogenic contaminants. Toxicity is one method of assessing the environmental quality of sediments, yet because of the extreme range of salinities that characterize estuaries few infaunal organisms have both the physiological tolerance and sensitivity to chemical contaminants to serve in estuarine sediment toxicity tests. We describe research on the estuarine burrowing amphipod, Eohaustorius estuarius Bosworth, 1973, whose survival was ≥95% in control sediments across a 2 to 28% salinity range over 10-d periods. E. estuarius also was acutely sensitive to low sediment concentrations of the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon, fluoranthene (LC50 ≈ 10.6 mg/kg), and its sensitivity to fluoranthene was not affected by salinity. E. estuarius was almost as sensitive as Rhepoxynius abronius to fluoranthene and to field-collected sediments from Puget Sound urban and industrial bays. E. estuarius was also more tolerant of very fine, uncontaminated sediments than R. abronius. Furthermore, E. estuarius was more sensitive to sediments spiked with fluoranthene than the freshwater amphipod, Hyalella azteca. E. estuarius, and possibly other estuarine haustoriid species, appears to be an excellent candidate for testing the acute toxicity of estuarine and marine sediments.

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