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The species composition, abundance, and diversity of soft-bottom benthic infaunal communities have been studied as part of a long-term quantitative monitoring program related to the siting, construction, and operation of a sewage outfall in Massachusetts Bay, off Boston. Samples have
been collected adjacent to the new outfall location as well as at farfield reference locations throughout Massachusetts Bay and Cape Cod Bay. Reconnaissance surveys were conducted in the late 1980s and long-term monitoring began in 1992. The outfall will be operational in late 2000. Most of
the area near the outfall is a naturally disturbed habitat influenced by tidal currents, storm-generated wave action, and sediment resuspension. Areas of fine-to-coarse sediments alternate with exposed drumlins (glacial rock formations) and boulder fields. The infauna is dominated by polychaetes,
especially spionids (Prionospio steenstrupi, Spio limicola, Dipolydora socialis and D. quadrilobata), capitellids (Mediomastus californiensis) and cirratulids (Tharyx acutus and Monticellina baptisteae) but due to a heterogeneous topography, species composition
varies spatially. Syllids and oweniids are dominant at some stations. Out of 276 species of infaunal invertebrates identified in the 1996 samples, 119 species (43%) were polychaetes. The best represented families were the Spionidae (12 species), Maldanidae (9 species), Syllidae (9 species),
and Cirratulidae (7 species). Dominant species shift in order from year to year probably in response to timing of recruitment. Different faunal assemblages have been identified in the vicinity of the outfall, all defined by sediment grain size: (1) an Exogone-Corophium-oligochaete assemblage
occurred at coarse-sand stations, and (2) a widespread fine-sand assemblage was dominated by spionids, M. ambiseta, and sometimes Ninoe nigripes. Dominant spionids change in abundance from year to year, but are always species characteristic of coastal assemblages along the north-eastern
U.S. Prionospio steenstrupi dominated in 1987–88 and also since 1995; Spio limicola was the dominant spionid from 1992–1994. At least two farfield stations in Cape Cod Bay are dominated by Cossura longocirrata.
The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.