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Response of macrobenthic communities to restoration efforts in a New England estuary
Zajac, R.N.; Whitlatch, R.B. (2001). Response of macrobenthic communities to restoration efforts in a New England estuary. Estuaries 24(2): 167-183
In: Estuaries. The Estuarine Research Federation, Chesapeake Biological Laboratory: Columbia, S.C., etc.,. ISSN 0160-8347; e-ISSN 1559-2758
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Zajac, R.N.
  • Whitlatch, R.B.

    Changes in macrobenthic communities were studied over a 3.5 yr period following restoration activities in Alewife Cove, a small estuary located in southeastern Connecticut, U. S. Development around this estuary had resulted in reduced freshwater and tidal inflows, loss of critical habitats such as salt marshes, and eutrophication. Early in 1988, the lower reach of the estuary was dredged to increase tidal flushing and enhance environmental quality. Following dredging, tidal range within the Cove increased from 52 to 83 cm. Due to erosion within the Cove's lower channel and sediment migration into the Cove, tidal flows and ranges approached pre-dredge levels by 1991. Despite these changes, the percentage of silt/clay in the surface sediments in the middle and upper basins of the Cove declined by 30-45% over the study period. Changes in infaunal community structure in the lower reach following dredging were not great, primarily comprising shifts in the relative abundances of species typical of sandier versus muddier sediments. Directional changes in community structure were most evident in the middle and upper basins, away from the dredged area. Infaunal species richness increased significantly, with many species previously found only in the sand habitats of the lower reach establishing populations in the middle and upper basins. There was a significant decrease in the summer abundances of the pollution indicator polychaete Capitella capitata throughout much of the middle and upper basins. Restoration efforts in Alewife Cove centering on altered hydrology resulted in selected positive changes. Increases in tidal flow altered environmental conditions in the middle and upper basins where shifts in infaunal community structure indicated decreases in organic loading of sediments over 2-3 yr. Continued changes in the physical dynamics of the lower reach reduced tidal flow, arresting the positive ecological changes that were beginning to occur. This type of restoration approach of small estuaries can have positive results, but there may be a lag in the ecological response of the system. Macrobenthic communities, in particular summer abundance patterns of selected species, provided an integrated assessment of ecological changes in the Cove.

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