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Condition of macroinvertebrate communities in the Buffalo River Area of Concern following sediment remediation

January 28, 2022

The lower 10 km of the Buffalo River, a tributary to Lake Erie, was designated as an Area of Concern (AOC) in 1987 through the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement because sediment contamination and habitat alteration from past industrialization caused several Beneficial Use Impairments (BUIs). Extensive remediation efforts conducted between 2011 and 2015 removed approximately 688,100 cubic meters of contaminated sediment from the Buffalo River AOC, and subsequent chemical analysis of sediments indicated that most remedial goals had been achieved. Benthic macroinvertebrate communities and sediment toxicity were evaluated in the AOC and an upstream reference area in 2017 and 2020 to determine whether remediation has improved benthic conditions sufficiently that the benthos BUI designation can be removed. Community condition was characterized using the New York State multi-metric index of biological integrity and bed sediments were used for 10-day toxicity tests with Chironomus dilutus and Hyalella azteca. Macroinvertebrate communities were classified as moderately to slightly impacted at most AOC sites compared to slightly impacted at most reference sites, but toxicity tests did not identify any evidence of toxicity in sediments from the AOC. A linear mixed effects model indicated that total organic carbon concentration in sediments, distance upstream from the river mouth, and the relative dominance of zebra mussels Dreissena polymorpha were the primary predictors of macroinvertebrate community condition. These findings are consistent with those from other AOCs in New York which indicate that contemporary benthic communities are generally shaped by legacy habitat alterations rather than AOC-specific sediment contamination and toxicity.

Publication Year 2022
Title Condition of macroinvertebrate communities in the Buffalo River Area of Concern following sediment remediation
DOI 10.1016/j.jglr.2021.11.002
Authors Scott D. George, Brian T. Duffy, Barry P. Baldigo, Damianos Skaros, Alexander J. Smith
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Great Lakes Research
Index ID 70227859
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New York Water Science Center