Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Biological Sciences



Committee Director

Daniel M. Dauer

Committee Member

Kent E. Carpenter

Committee Member

Robert J. Diaz

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.B46 W423 2014


The Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River, a tributary of Chesapeake Bay, has historically been polluted with hydrocarbon based industrial by-products. My study compared benthic community condition from two locations in the Southern Branch: the subtidal region near Money Point, historically affected by pollution of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), to a subtidal region near Blows Creek on the opposite shore that is putatively designated as unimpacted by P AH contamination. Samples from both study sites in the Southern Branch were compared to the benthic community condition of samples from the same habitat type designations collected as part of the Chesapeake Bay Monitoring Program. The contaminated Money Point benthos showed significant negative effects on overall benthic community condition (as measured by the Chesapeake Bay Benthic Index of Biotic Integrity) as well as individual community metrics including species richness, abundance, and biomass. Negative effects were also observed in empirically estimated secondary productivity. The uncontaminated Blows Creek benthos showed somewhat positive responses to moderate levels of both stress and enrichment. Substantial amounts of PAHs are significantly harmful to benthic communities; and most likely to higher trophic levels feeding on the benthos.


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