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Integrating and Communicating Results of Sediment Quality Triad Studies

M. Jawed Hameedi and Anthony S. Pait

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have extensively used the Sediment Quality Triad approach for assessing environmental conditions in coastal bays and estuaries of the United States. The approach, based on synoptic measures of contamination, toxicity, and faunal distribution, offers weight of evidence to infer the state of pollution in a given area. The resulting data are presented as listings, tabular matrices, pie diagrams, or as outcomes of multivariate statistical analyses. Quite often such presentations lack integration or need an expression that is readily interpretable by resource managers and the public. This paper introduces an index to present results of the triad by developing a scoring system, presenting the results on a tri-axial plot, and estimating area of the triangle to quantify the overall condition in the study area or a particular sampling stratum. The index can be used to compare environmental conditions in specified geographical areas and gauge the extent and severity of contamination over time. The index is relatively simple and transparent, i.e., disaggregation of its components is possible for detailed examination (c.f., Factor Analysis), and it avoids problems with spurious correlations, complex outcomes of multivariate analyses, and questionable sediment quality parameters and faunal indices. A case example is presented with data from Galveston Bay that was studied as part of NOAA's National Status and Trends Program.

Keywords: Contamination, Toxicity, Benthos, Sediment Quality Triad, Index

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