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NCCOS Research Project

Bioeffects Program Reports: Pacific Coast and Hawaii

Primary Contact(s): ian.hartwell@noaa.gov
This project began in April 1991 and is Ongoing

Bioeffects Assessment Program identifies and assesses biological effects associated with contaminant exposure. Over forty intensive regional studies have been conducted since 1986 using the Sediment Quality Triad approach to determine the areal extent of contaminated sediments. The data include: sediment chemistry, toxicity, and species diversity and quantity for the same suite of organic contaminants and trace metals as the Mussel Watch Program.

Why We Care
Bioeffects projects are designed to assess the spatial distribution and magnitude of effect of chemical contamination, and develop indicators of environmental contaminant exposure in water bodies, ranging from small estuaries to large bays and coastal areas. Data are applicable to environmental risk assessments, damage assessments, and for planning future resource management and restoration activities. Using consistent methods over the life of the program allows for comparison of the magnitude and extent of contaminant effects relative to other locations throughout the U.S., and over time. All data are generated following strict performance-based quality control and quality assurance protocols. Data are available to regional, federal, state, and local resource managers and the public via publications, presentations, and a website data portal.

What We Did
Bioeffects studies are generally a one-time, intensive sampling effort. All sites within the study area are sampled for chemical analyses, and sea floor community assessment in as short a time as possible, so the data reflect a snapshot of the condition of the entire system at a point in time. In brief, field procedures include sampling sediment and the overlying water column. Two sediment samples are taken at each site using what is known as a “Young-modified Van Veen grab sampler.” Only the upper 2–3 cm of the sediment is retained in order to assure collection of recently deposited materials. The sediment samples are thoroughly homogenized in the field and are then subdivided for distribution to various testing laboratories. A third sample is taken for sea floor community analysis. A profile of water quality in the water column is measured to include standard variables such as temperature, depth, salinity, dissolved oxygen, etc. Detailed descriptions of the sampling techniques and procedures are available by contacting the project manager.

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