An assessment of chemical contaminants, toxicity and benthic infauna in sediments from the St. Thomas East End Reserves (STEER)
This report contains a chemical and biological characterization of sediments from the St. Thomas East End Reserves (STEER) in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI). The STEER Management Plan (published in 2011) identified chemical contaminants and habitat loss as high or very high threats and called for a characterization of chemical contaminants as well as an assessment of their effects on natural resources. The baseline information contained in this report on chemical contaminants, toxicity and benthic infaunal community composition can be used to assess current conditions, as well as the efficacy of future restoration activities.
In this phase of the project, 185 chemical contaminants, including a number of organic (e.g., hydrocarbons and pesticides) and inorganic (e.g., metals) compounds, were analyzed from 24 sites in the STEER. Sediments were also analyzed using a series of toxicity bioassays, including amphipod mortality, sea urchin fertilization impairment, and the cyto-chrome P450 Human Reporter Gene System (HRGS), along with a characterization of the benthic infaunal community.
Higher levels of chemical contaminants were found in Mangrove Lagoon and Benner Bay in the western portion of the study area than in the eastern area. The concentrations of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT (dichlorodi-phenyltrichloroethane), chlordane, zinc, copper, lead and mercury were above a NOAA sediment quality guideline at one or more sites, indicating impacts may be present in more sensitive species or life stages in the benthic environment. Copper at one site in Benner Bay, however, was above a NOAA guideline indicating that effects on benthic organisms were likely. The antifoulant boat hull ingredient tributyltin, or TBT, was found at the third highest concentration in the history of NOAA's National Status and Trends (NS&T) Program, which monitors the Nation's coastal and estuarine waters for chemical contaminants and bioeffects. Unfortunately, there do not appear to be any established sediment quality guidelines for TBT. Results of the bioassays indicated significant sediment toxicity in Mangrove Lagoon and Benner Bay using multiple tests. The benthic infaunal communities in Mangrove Lagoon and Benner Bay appeared severely diminished.
Citation: Pait, A.S., Hartwell S.I, Mason A.L., Warner R.A., Jeffrey C.F.G., Hoffman A.M., Apeti D.A., Galdo F.R. Jr., Pittman S.J. 2013. An assessment of chemical contaminants, toxicity and benthic infauna in sediments from the St. Thomas East End Reserves (STEER). NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 156. Silver Spring, MD. 80 pp.
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