2004 Progress Report: Macrobenthic Process Indicators of Estuarine Condition for the Northern Gulf of Mexico

EPA Grant Number: R829458C008
Subproject: this is subproject number 008 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R829458
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: EAGLES - Consortium for Estuarine Ecoindicator Research for the Gulf of Mexico
Center Director: Brouwer, Marius
Title: Macrobenthic Process Indicators of Estuarine Condition for the Northern Gulf of Mexico
Investigators: Rakocinski, Chet
Institution: University of Mississippi
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: December 1, 2001 through November 30, 2005 (Extended to May 20, 2007)
Project Period Covered by this Report: December 1, 2003 through November 30, 2004
RFA: Environmental Indicators in the Estuarine Environment Research Program (2000) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Water , Aquatic Ecosystems , Ecological Indicators/Assessment/Restoration


The main objectives for the macrobenthic indicator component of Consortium for Estuarine Ecoindicator Research for the Gulf of Mexico (CEER-GOM) are to: (1) develop practical methods for quantifying a suite of macrobenthic indicators related to estuarine function that are responsive to eutrophication and hypoxia; (2) provide the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Benthic Index for the Gulf of Mexico as a benchmark for the validation of novel indicators developed by other CEER-GOM components; (3) explore relationships between macrobenthic indicators and functional environmental variables; and (4) integrate macrobenthic indicators with other novel indicators operating at multiple levels of organization, ranging from genomic to landscape scales.

Seven specific objectives were pursued by the macrobenthic indicator component of CEER-GOM in Year 3 of this 4-year project: (1) conduct integrated field sampling along with other CEER-GOM components; (2) process CEER-GOM macrobenthic samples; (3) provide macrobenthic process indicator data files through 2003; (4) devise an instrument to obtain the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment Program for Estuaries Benthic Index from CEER-GOM macrobenthic data; (5) examine and compare relationships between the Benthic Index, process indicators, and selected functional variables using the 2002 Grand Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve (NERR) trial dataset; (6) begin interpretation and integration of CEER-GOM macrobenthic data; and (7) disseminate CEER-GOM macrobenthic component findings.

Progress Summary:

In fulfillment of the first objective, field sampling efforts continued in East Bay and were expanded to include the Weeks Bay/Mobile Bay area. In addition to the 11 established stations within the East Bay system, 6 other stations were adopted from within the Weeks Bay/Mobile Bay system. During the 2004 study period, a total of 114 macrofaunal grabs were obtained from 38 stations along with accompanying sediment samples. In fulfillment of the second objective, 108 macrofaunal samples from 36 stations obtained from East Bay between May and November 2003 have been fully processed. In addition, all of the 114 macrofaunal samples from 2004 have been sorted, 80 percent have been size fractionated, 70 percent have undergone taxonomic identification, and 60 percent more had biomass determination. In fulfillment of the third objective, post-processing of raw macrofaunal data and calculation of macrobenthic process indicators been completed for all pooled collections through 2003. Process indicators must still be determined for individual grabs for the most of the 2003 collections.

In fulfillment of the fourth objective, up-to-date detrended fluctuation analysis parameters provided by Virginia Engle of the EPA Gulf Ecology Division were used to write a computer program to calculate the Benthic Index using input data produced by the macrobenthic component of CEER-GOM. This program was checked using macrofaunal samples taken during the 2002 pilot study in the Grand Bay NERR. In fulfillment of the fifth objective, relationships were compared between the Benthic Index, process indicators, and selected functional variables within the 2002 Grand Bay NERR trial data set. Bivariate relationships between the Benthic Index and parameters for the macrobenthic process indicators illustrated that there was general agreement among all the indicators; however, relationships involving the Benthic Index were weaker than relationships among the process indicators, and they were weakest between the Benthic Index and log macrobenthic production potential. Furthermore, relationships between the Benthic Index and functional environmental variables, including pore water ammonia and phosphorous, as well as surface chlorophyll and bottom DO, were consistent but fairly weak. In contrast, strong bivariate relationships were evident between log macrobenthic production potential and all four of the selected environmental variables. Although none of the process indicators were significantly related with total organic carbon (TOC), the Benthic Index was strongly related with TOC.

In fulfillment of the sixth objective, four macrobenthic process indicators were plotted onto a map of integrated sites sampled in August 2003 that was generated by the biofilm component of CEER-GOM. Spatial patterns in the process indicators were consistent with other landscape-scale patterns, and joint behavior of the macrobenthic indicators was informative. High production coincided with a long community turnover, as well as a shallow biomass-size spectrum slope and low spectrum intercept, and characterized larger organisms within the Marsh Creek. Relatively lower production, shorter turnover, a steeper slope, and higher intercept were characteristic of smaller organisms in the Marsh Pond. Intermediate production in conjunction with short turnovers and steep slopes along with high intercepts associated with smaller organisms likely reflected organically enriched sediments at P12 and P13. This interpretation also is consistent with the spatial pattern in surface chlorophyll a. In contrast, intermediate production occurred in connection with longer community turnover, a shallower slope, and a lower intercept characteristic of larger organisms at P5, located away from high surface chlorophyll. Markedly low production occurred, however, in connection with an intermediate turnover, as well as shallow slope and low intercept at P14, located within the area of low DO, high surface chlorophyll, and moderately deep water in lower East Bay. The lowest observed production was associated with a short turnover, a shallow slope, and low intercept at SRS1, the site located nearest to a sewage outflow.

In fulfillment of the seventh objective, findings of the CEER-GOM macrobenthic component have been disseminated through various means, including eight invited and contributed presentations at scientific meetings and workshops and through a book chapter, a collaborative journal article, and an in press chapter in a site profile for the Grand Bay NERR.

Journal Articles on this Report : 1 Displayed | Download in RIS Format

Other subproject views: All 13 publications 2 publications in selected types All 1 journal articles
Other center views: All 171 publications 54 publications in selected types All 48 journal articles
Type Citation Sub Project Document Sources
Journal Article Niemi G, Wardrop D, Brooks R, Anderson S, Brady V, Paerl H , Rakocinski C, Brouwer M, Levinson B, McDonald M. Rationale for a new generation of indicators for coastal waters. Environmental Health Perspectives 2004;112(9):979-986.
abstract available   full text available
R829458C003 (2003)
R829458C008 (2003)
R829458C008 (2004)
R828675 (2004)
R828675 (Final)
R828677C001 (Final)
R828684 (Final)
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  • Abstract from PubMed
  • Associated PubMed link
  • Full-text: EHP - Full Text HTML
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  • Supplemental Keywords:

    population, community, ecosystem, watersheds, estuary, estuaries, Gulf of Mexico, nutrients, hypoxia, innovative technology, biomarkers, water quality, remote sensing, geographic information system, GIS, integrated assessment, risk assessment, fisheries, conservation, restoration, monitoring/modeling, benthic indicators, ecological exposure, ecosystem monitoring, environmental indicators, environmental stress, estuarine ecoindicator, estuarine integrity,, RFA, Scientific Discipline, ECOSYSTEMS, Geographic Area, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Ecosystem/Assessment/Indicators, Aquatic Ecosystem, Aquatic Ecosystems, Ecological Monitoring, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Biology, Ecological Indicators, Gulf of Mexico, monitoring, ecoindicator, ecological exposure, estuaries, estuarine integrity, ecosystem monitoring, CEER-GOM, estuarine ecoindicator, benthic indicators, environmental indicators, environmental stress, water quality

    Relevant Websites:

    http://www.usm.edu/gcrl/ceer_gom/ Exit

    Progress and Final Reports:

    Original Abstract
  • 2002 Progress Report
  • 2003 Progress Report
  • 2005 Progress Report
  • 2006
  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R829458    EAGLES - Consortium for Estuarine Ecoindicator Research for the Gulf of Mexico

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R829458C001 Remote Sensing of Water Quality
    R829458C002 Microbial Biofilms as Indicators of Estuarine Ecosystem Condition
    R829458C003 Individual Level Indicators: Molecular Indicators of Dissolved Oxygen Stress in Crustaceans
    R829458C004 Data Management and Analysis
    R829458C005 Individual Level Indicators: Reproductive Function in Estuarine Fishes
    R829458C006 Collaborative Efforts Between CEER-GOM and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-Gulf Ecology Division (GED)
    R829458C007 GIS and Terrestrial Remote Sensing
    R829458C008 Macrobenthic Process Indicators of Estuarine Condition for the Northern Gulf of Mexico
    R829458C009 Modeling and Integration