Biological Effects of Suspended Sediments: A Review of Suspended Sediment Impacts on Fish and Shellfish with Relation to Dredging Activities in Estuaries

  • Wilber D
  • Clarke D
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—Objective assessment of the effects of increased concentrations of suspended sediment caused by human activities, such as navigation dredging, on estuarine fish and shellfish requires an integration of findings from biological and engineering studies. Knowledge is needed of (1) the suspended sediment characteristics typical of both ambient and dredging-induced conditions, (2) the biological responses of aquatic organisms to these suspended sediment dosages, and (3) the likelihood that organisms of interest will encounter suspended sediment plumes. This paper synthesizes the results of studies that report biological responses to known suspended sediment concentrations and exposure durations and relates these findings to suspended sediment conditions associated with dredging projects. Biological responses of taxonomic groups and life history stages are graphed as a function of concentration and exposure duration. The quality and taxonomic breadth of studies on which resource managers must rely when evaluating potential impacts from activities that resuspend sediments, such as dredging projects, are addressed. Review of the per-tinent literature indicates that few data exist concerning biological responses of fish and shellfish to suspended sediment dosages commonly associated with dredging projects. Much of the available data come from bioassays that measured acute responses and required high concentrations of suspended sediments to induce the measured response, usually mortality. Although anadromous salmonids have received much attention, little is known of behavioral responses of many estuarine fishes to suspended sediment plumes. Likewise, the effects of intermittent exposures at periodicities that simulate the effects of tidal flushing or the conduct of many dredge operations have not been addressed.

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  • Dara H Wilber

  • Douglas G Clarke

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