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Revision of sediment quality triad indicators in puget sound (Washington, USA): I. A sediment chemistry index and targets for mixtures of toxicants

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The Washington State Department of Ecology annually conducts sediment quality monitoring in Puget Sound as a component of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program. Sediment samples are analyzed to determine the concentrations of about 170 chemical and physical variables. A Sediment Chemistry Index (SCI) was derived using the State of Washington Sediment Management Standards to account for the presence and concentrations of mixtures of toxicants. Mean Sediment Quality Standard quotients (mSQSq) were calculated as the basis for the SCI and compared to the incidence and degree of toxicity in laboratory tests and to metrics of the diversity and abundance of resident benthic assemblages in a database consisting of as many as 664 samples. These data were evaluated with co‐occurrence analyses to identify “cut points” (i.e., thresholds) in the index below which the frequency and magnitude of biological effects were relatively low and above which they occurred with increasing frequency or magnitude. Iterative trials of different sets of cut points established the final cut points in mSQSq of 0.1, 0.3 and 0.5. They defined four ranges in chemical exposure: Minimum (<0.1), Low (0.1–<0.3), Moderate (0.3–<0.5) and Maximum (>0.5). Across these four exposure ranges both the incidence and magnitude of toxicity in some laboratory tests increased, the abundance of some stress‐sensitive benthic taxa decreased, and the abundance of some stress‐tolerant taxa increased. The mSQSq cut point of 0.1 appears to be the target value for protection of benthic resources, the value below which the probability and magnitude of adverse effects either in the laboratory or the field are the lowest. The mSQSq values are re‐scaled from 0 to 100 to form the SCI, used by the Puget Sound Partnership and environmental managers as a Dashboard Indicator, with biologically relevant targets selected to monitor ecosystem recovery. Integr Environ Assess Manag © 2012 SETAC

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