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Assessing ecological integrity for impaired waters decisions in Chesapeake Bay, USA.

Versar Inc., Ecological Sciences and Applications, 9200 Rumsey Road, Columbia, Maryland 21045, USA.
Marine Pollution Bulletin (Impact Factor: 2.79). 01/2009; 59(1-3):48-53. DOI: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2008.11.011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT To meet the requirements of the Clean Water Act, the States of Maryland and Virginia are using benthic biological criteria for identifying impaired waters in Chesapeake Bay and reporting their overall condition. The Chesapeake Bay benthic index of biotic integrity (B-IBI) is the basis for these biological criteria. Working together with the states and the US Environmental Protection Agency, we developed a method for impairment decisions based on the B-IBI. The impaired waters decision approach combines multiple benthic habitat-dependent indices in a Bay segment (equivalent to water bodies in the European Water Framework Directive) with a statistical test of impairment. The method takes into consideration uncertainty in reference conditions, sampling variability, multiple habitats, and sample size. We applied this method to 1430 probability-based benthic samples in 85 Chesapeake Bay segments. Twenty-two segments were considered impaired for benthic community condition. The final decision for each segment considers benthic condition in combination with key stressors such as dissolved oxygen and toxic contaminants.

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