Assessing contamination in Great Lakes sediments using benthic invertebrate communities and the sediment quality triad approach

Timothy J. Canfield, F. James Dwyer, James F. Fairchild, Pamela S. Haverland, Christopher G. Ingersoll, Nile E. Kemble, David R. Mount, Thomas W. La Point, G. Allen Burton, M. C. Swift

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

70 Scopus citations


Sediments in many Great Lakes harbors and tributary rivers are contaminated. As part of the USEPA's Assessment and Remediation of Contaminated Sediment (ARCS) program, a number of studies were conducted to determine the nature and extent of sediment contamination in Great Lakes Areas of Concern (AOC). This paper describes the composition of benthic invertebrate communities in contaminated sediments and is one in a series of papers describing studies conducted to evaluate sediment toxicity from three AOC's (Buffalo River, NY; Indiana Harbor, IN; Saginaw River, MI), as part of the ARCS Program. Oligochaeta (worms) and Chironomidae (midge) comprised over 90% of the benthic invertebrate numbers in samples collected from depositional areas. Worms and midge consisted of taxa identified as primarily contaminant tolerant organisms. Structural deformities of mouthparts in midge larvae were pronounced in many of the samples. Good concurrence was evident between measures of laboratory toxicity, sediment contaminant concentration, and benthic invertebrate community composition in extremely contaminated samples. However, in moderately contaminated samples, less concordance was observed between the benthos community composition and either laboratory toxicity test results or sediment contaminant concentration. Laboratory sediment toxicity tests may better identify chemical contamination in sediments than many commonly used measures of benthic invertebrate community composition. Benthic measures may also reflect other factors such as habitat alteration. Evaluation of non-contaminant factors are needed to better interpret the response of benthic invertebrates to sediment contamination.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)565-583
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1996

Bibliographical note

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Chironomidae
  • Great Lakes
  • Oligochaeta
  • sediment contaminants
  • sediment quality triad


Dive into the research topics of 'Assessing contamination in Great Lakes sediments using benthic invertebrate communities and the sediment quality triad approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this