Sediment quality assessment in tidal salt marshes in northern California, USA: An evaluation of multiple lines of evidence approach

Hyun Min Hwang, R. Scott Carr, Gary N. Cherr, Peter G. Green, Edwin D. Grosholz, Linda Judah, Steven G. Morgan, Scott Ogle, Vanessa K. Rashbrook, Wendy L. Rose, Swee J Teh, Carol A. Vines, Susan L. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The objective of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of integrating a traditional sediment quality triad approach with selected sublethal chronic indicators in resident species in assessing sediment quality in four salt marshes in northern California, USA. These included the highly contaminated (Stege Marsh) and relatively clean (China Camp) marshes in San Francisco Bay and two reference marshes in Tomales Bay. Toxicity potential of contaminants and benthic macroinvertebrate survey showed significant differences between contaminated and reference marshes. Sublethal responses (e.g., apoptotic DNA fragmentation, lipid accumulation, and glycogen depletion) in livers of longjaw mudsucker (Gillichthys mirabilis) and embryo abnormality in lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes) also clearly distinguished contaminated and reference marshes, while other responses (e.g., cytochrome P450, metallothionein) did not. This study demonstrates that additional chronic sublethal responses in resident species under field exposure conditions can be readily combined with sediment quality triads for an expanded multiple lines of evidence approach. This confirmatory step may be warranted in environments like salt marshes in which natural variables may affect interpretation of toxicity test data. Qualitative and quantitative integration of the portfolio of responses in resident species and traditional approach can support a more comprehensive and informative sediment quality assessment in salt marshes and possibly other habitat types as well.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)189-198
Number of pages10
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Jun 1 2013


  • Lined shore crab (Pachygrapsus crassipes)
  • Longjaw mudsucker (Gillichthys mirabilis)
  • Resident species
  • Sediment quality triad
  • Sublethal chronic toxicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Pollution
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Environmental Engineering


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