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Zoobenthic variability associated with a flood and drought in the Hawkesbury estuary, New South Wales: Some consequences for environmental monitoring

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Changes in the Hawkesbury zoobenthos associated with a major flood and drought are described and comparisons made in the patterns of change among estuarine reaches and among sites within reaches. The consequences for environmental monitoring and management are discussed. Replicate grab samples were taken from four sites in each of the lower, middle and upper reaches. Reductions in the mean number of species per grab (S) following the flood were significant only in the lower reaches and at one site in the middle reaches. Increases in S accompanied the drought in all reaches but intra-reach variation in temporal patterns occurred in both S and in the most abundant species found. Thus, major weather events are associated with temporal changes whose patterns differ on both small and large spatial scales. Consequently, the results from fixed-factor sampling designs, which are widely used, may be unrepresentative of other areas. Unfortunately, the alternative approach of stratified random sampling will probably be both prohibitively expensive and difficult to implement in the complex estuarine benthic habitat. Further, short-term studies will probably be grossly unrepresentative of natural temporal variation. Attempts to reduce expenses by using only one or two abundant species as characterising communities or as indicators of physicochemical conditions may be unreliable because of variation in both time and space in dominant species and the lack of pollution-response knowledge for local species.

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Jones, A.R. Zoobenthic variability associated with a flood and drought in the Hawkesbury estuary, New South Wales: Some consequences for environmental monitoring. Environ Monit Assess 14, 185–195 (1990).

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  • Dominant Species
  • Temporal Pattern
  • Abundant Species
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Lower Reach