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Biological effects of anthropogenic contaminants in the San Francisco Estuary

January 1, 2007

Concentrations of many anthropogenic contaminants in the San Francisco Estuary exist at levels that have been associated with biological effects elsewhere, so there is a potential for them to cause biological effects in the Estuary. The purpose of this paper is to summarize information about biological effects on the Estuary's plankton, benthos, fish, birds, and mammals, gathered since the early 1990s, focusing on key accomplishments. These studies have been conducted at all levels of biological organization (sub-cellular through communities), but have included only a small fraction of the organisms and contaminants of concern in the region. The studies summarized provide a body of evidence that some contaminants are causing biological impacts in some biological resources in the Estuary. However, no general patterns of effects were apparent in space and time, and no single contaminant was consistently related to effects among the biota considered. These conclusions reflect the difficulty in demonstrating biological effects due specifically to contamination because there is a wide range of sensitivity to contaminants among the Estuary's many organisms. Additionally, the spatial and temporal distribution of contamination in the Estuary is highly variable, and levels of contamination covary with other environmental factors, such as freshwater inflow or sediment-type. Federal and State regulatory agencies desire to develop biological criteria to protect the Estuary's biological resources. Future studies of biological effects in San Francisco Estuary should focus on the development of meaningful indicators of biological effects, and on key organism and contaminants of concern in long-term, multifaceted studies that include laboratory and field experiments to determine cause and effect to adequately inform management and regulatory decisions.

Publication Year 2007
Title Biological effects of anthropogenic contaminants in the San Francisco Estuary
DOI 10.1016/j.envres.2006.10.005
Authors B. Thompson, T. Adelsbach, Cynthia L. Brown, J. Hunt, James S. Kuwabara, J. Neale, H. Ohlendorf, Steven E. Schwarzbach, R. Spies, K. Taberski
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Research
Index ID 70030742
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Toxic Substances Hydrology Program; Western Ecological Research Center