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Estuarine and coastal populations undergo regular short- and long-term fluctuations in various functions which approximate diurnal, tidal, seasonal, and annual periodicities. This, together with a highly unstable physical environment, leads to considerable variation in temporal relationships of estuarine communities thus complicating biological monitoring programs. The implications of temporal variation of the natural environment are discussed relative to the biological sampling necessary to account for such variability; examples are taken from studies in three bay systems along the Gulf coast of north Florida.
The natural physicochemical functions in coastal systems are associated with rapid (diurnal) as well as long-term (seasonal) variations which should be determined from carefully designed sampling programs if causative elements of the impact of pollutants are to be determined. Against this background, the timing of pollutant entry into the system could control the actual nature of the impact. This should be related to natural cycles of various organisms in a given system after adequate determination of the timed sequence of biological variation. Regular changes of assemblages of epibenthic organisms, though often temporally stable on an annual basis, are only roughly synchronized with seasonal patterns of key physical functions such as temperature and salinity. Community structure can be masked or distorted by inadequate sampling either on a short-term or seasonal basis. This, together with seasonally directed changes in the actual impact of a given pollutant, should be taken into consideration in the design of a given biomonitoring program. The goals of each project should be reconciled with the short- and long-term variations of the biological system in question.
water quality, aquatic biology, water pollution, estuarine, fishes, invertebrates, benthic macrophytes, biomonitoring
Associate professor, Florida State University, Tallahassee, Fla.