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Comparison of benthos and plankton for Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern, Illinois, and Burns Harbor-Port of Indiana non-Area of Concern, Indiana, in 2015

June 6, 2017

During two seasonal sampling events in spring (June) and fall (August) of 2015, the U.S. Geological Survey collected benthos (benthic invertebrates) and plankton (zooplankton and phytoplankton) at three sites each in the Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern (AOC) in Illinois and in Burns Harbor-Port of Indiana, a non-AOC comparison site in Indiana. The study was done in cooperation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. Samples were collected concurrently for physical and chemical parameters (specific conductance, temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, chlorophyll-a, total and volatile suspended solids in water samples; particle size and volatile-on-ignition solids of sediment in dredge samples). The purpose of the study was to assess whether or not aquatic communities at the AOC were degraded in comparison to communities at the non-AOC, which was presumed to be less impaired than the AOC. Benthos were collected by using Hester-Dendy artificial substrate samplers and a Ponar® dredge sampler to collect composited grabs of bottom sediment; zooplankton were collected by using tows from depth to the surface with a 63-micrometer mesh plankton net; phytoplankton were collected by using whole water samples composited from set depth intervals. Aquatic communities at the AOC and the non-AOC were compared by use of univariate statistical analyses with metrics such as taxa richness (number of unique taxa), diversity, and a multimetric Index of Biotic Integrity (IBI, for artificial-substrate samples only) as well as by use of multivariate statistical analyses of taxa relative abundances.

Although benthos communities at Waukegan Harbor AOC were not rated as degraded in comparison to the non-AOC, metrics for zooplankton and phytoplankton communities did show some impairment for the 2015 sampling. Across seasons, benthos richness and diversity were significantly higher and rated as less degraded at the AOC compared to the non-AOC; however, benthos IBIs were not significantly different. Multivariate comparisons revealed that the benthos communities in the AOC and non-AOC were significantly different, but these comparisons do not address current degradation in either harbor. The dominant taxa in dredge samples were oligochaete worms in both harbors, but there were differences in the relative abundances of Dreissena as well as oligochaete and midge taxa. Although zooplankton richness and diversity in the AOC were lower and rated as more degraded in spring, these metrics were rated as less degraded in fall compared to the non-AOC, effectively balancing out so that there was no difference across seasons. Multivariate comparisons also indicated that zooplankton communities in the AOC were significantly different from those in the non-AOC for spring only but not across seasons, possibly because of lower water temperatures in spring at Waukegan Harbor than at the non-AOC site. The spring zooplankton community in Waukegan Harbor was dominated in density and biomass by the rotifer Synchaeta. Across seasons, diatom richness was significantly higher and rated as less degraded in the AOC than the non-AOC because of spring values, whereas soft algae richness was significantly lower and rated as more degraded in the AOC because of fall values. Spring richness of combined phytoplankton (soft algae and diatoms) was significantly higher in the AOC than in the non-AOC. Neither diatom diversity nor soft algae diversity differed significantly between the harbors, but combined phytoplankton diversity across seasons, if replicates were included, was significantly lower and rated as more degraded in the AOC than in the non-AOC. Multivariate tests indicated that the combined phytoplankton communities in the harbors were not significantly different across seasons. Significant differences were not found between harbors for chlorophyll-a, suspended solids, algal densities, or biomass.

Publication Year 2017
Title Comparison of benthos and plankton for Waukegan Harbor Area of Concern, Illinois, and Burns Harbor-Port of Indiana non-Area of Concern, Indiana, in 2015
DOI 10.3133/sir20175039
Authors Barbara C. Scudder Eikenberry, Hayley T. Olds, Daniel J. Burns, Edward G. Dobrowolski, Kurt L. Schmude
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5039
Index ID sir20175039
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Wisconsin Water Science Center