The toxicity of sediments in Biscayne Bay and many adjoining tributaries was determined as part of a bioeffects assessments program managed by NOAA’s National Status and Trends Program. The objectives of the survey were to determine: (1) the incidence and degree of toxicity of sediments throughout the study area; (2) the spatial patterns (or gradients) in chemical contamination and toxicity, if any, throughout the study area; (3) the
spatial extent of chemical contamination and toxicity; and (4) the statistical relationships between measures of toxicity and concentrations of chemicals in the sediments.
The survey was designed to characterize sediment quality throughout the greater Biscayne Bay area. Surficial sediment samples were collected during 1995 and 1996 from 226 randomly-chosen locations throughout nine major regions. Laboratory toxicity tests were performed as indicators of potential ecotoxicological effects in sediments. A battery of tests was performed to generate information from different phases (components) of the sediments. Tests were selected to represent a range in toxicological endpoints from acute to chronic sublethal responses. Toxicological tests were conducted to measure: reduced survival of adult amphipods exposed to solid-phase sediments; impaired fertilization success and abnormal morphological development in gametes and embryos, respectively, of sea urchins exposed to pore waters; reduced metabolic activity of a marine bioluminescent
bacteria exposed to organic solvent extracts; induction of a cytochrome P-450 reporter gene system in exposures to solvent extracts; and reduced reproductive success in marine copepods exposed to solid-phase sediments.
Contamination and toxicity were most severe in several peripheral canals and tributaries, including the lower Miami River, adjoining the main axis of the bay. In the open basins of the bay, chemical concentrations and toxicity generally were higher in areas north of the
Rickenbacker Causeway than south of it. Sediments from the main basins of the bay generally were less toxic than those from the adjoining tributaries and canals. The different
toxicity tests, however, indicated differences in severity, incidence, spatial patterns, and spatial extent in toxicity. The most sensitive test among those performed on all samples, a bioassay of normal morphological development of sea urchin embryos, indicated toxicity was pervasive throughout the entire study area. The least sensitive test, an acute bioassay performed with a benthic amphipod, indicated toxicity was restricted to a very small percentage
of the area.
Both the degree and spatial extent of chemical contamination and toxicity in this study area were similar to or less severe than those observed in many other areas in the U.S. The spatial extent of toxicity in all four tests performed throughout the bay were comparable to
the “national averages” calculated by NOAA from previous surveys conducted in a similar manner.
Several trace metals occurred in concentrations in excess of those expected in reference sediments. Mixtures of substances, including pesticides, petroleum constituents, trace metals, and ammonia, were associated statistically with the measures of toxicity. Substances most elevated in concentration relative to numerical guidelines and associated with toxicity included polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT pesticides, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbons, hexachloro cyclohexanes, lead, and mercury. These (and other) substances occurred in concentrations greater than effects-based guidelines in the samples that were most toxic in one or more of the tests. (PDF contains 180 pages)
Monograph or Serial Issue