Benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in the US nearshore zone of Lake Erie, 2009: Status and linkages to landscape-derived stressors

Jill Scharold, Timothy D. Corry, Peder M. Yurista, John R. Kelly

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6 Scopus citations


As a pilot for the 2010 US National Coastal Condition Assessment, we conducted a survey of benthic macroinvertebrates in the US nearshore zone of Lake Erie during August-September 2009. A probability-based survey design was used to select 45 sites from the nearshore (the region within the 30m contour and ≤5km from shore). The dominant taxonomic group was dreissenid mussels, with a mean density of 8415±1826 (SE) m-2. Other major taxa included oligochaetes (2736±442m-2) and chironomids (794±139m-2). The three major taxa were distributed throughout the nearshore, with the highest densities in the western basin. Lake-wide mean density of the burrowing mayfly Hexagenia was 114±39m-2; however, it was present only in the western basin, where its mean density was 356±141m-2. Stepwise multiple linear regressions across sites revealed significant correlations of several benthic macroinvertebrate assemblage metrics with landscape measures of anthropogenic stress in adjacent coastal watersheds. The Shannon diversity index, the oligochaete trophic index, taxon richness, and densities of chironomids and Hexagenia were significantly related to agricultural activity in basin watersheds. Other significant landscape-level explanatory variables included population density, shoreline modification, atmospheric deposition, and land cover. Study results provide evidence that benthic macroinvertebrate assemblages in the nearshore zone of Lake Erie are responsive to landscape-derived stressors emanating from adjacent watersheds. Ancillary regression analyses reinforce the concept that responses in benthic metrics appear to be mediated through site-level trophic enrichment effects in the open nearshore.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)338-347
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was funded entirely by the US EPA . The US EPA Great Lakes National Program Office provided ship time on the R/V Lake Guardian. Greg Peterson and Andrew Just provided invaluable assistance with field sampling on the R/V Tullibee. Anne Cotter performed water quality analyses, and benthic macroinvertebrate samples were processed by EcoAnalysts. We thank Dr. Kenneth Krieger, MaryAnn Starus and two anonymous reviewers for constructive comments on the manuscript. The views expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the US EPA.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 .

Copyright 2015 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Benthic macroinvertebrates
  • Lake Erie

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