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Proceedings of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Sediment Workshop, February 4-7, 1997


By Andrew Robertson;
1305 East-West Highway;
Silver Spring, MD 20910

The mission of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has two primary components: to promote global environmental stewardship in order to conserve and wisely manage the Nation's marine and coastal resources and to predict changes in the Earth's environment in order to ensure and enhance sustainable economic opportunities. Both of these components call for substantial involvement with sediments and with understanding and predicting their transport and fates and their physical, chemical, and biological properties. An overview of NOAA's involvement with sediments including a description of survey projects regarding the condition of coastal sediment is given in this presentation.

In carrying out its mission, NOAA has a number of management responsibilities that require scientific information concerning sediments. These include:

- Coastal Zone Management
- Marine Sanctuaries and Reserves
- Hazardous Materials Response and Assessment
- Damage Assessment and Restoration
- Living Marine Resource Habitat Conservation and Restoration.
To help support the needs of these programs as well as the more general national needs, NOAA conducts research, monitoring, and assessment programs involving sedimentary properties and processes. The research is carried out in several NOAA laboratories and under grants and contracts. It includes sediment-related activities in the following NOAA components:
- National Sea Grant Program
- Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory
- Northeast Fisheries Science Center
- Southeast Fisheries Science Center
- Northwest Fisheries Science Center.
The monitoring and assessment activities are conducted primarily in NOAA's National Ocean Service. These include work conducted by the Strategic Environmental Assessment Program to develop summary characterizations of surficial sediments as part of NOAA's National Estuarine Inventory. They also include three monitoring surveys conducted by the National Status and Trends Program for Marine Environmental Quality to determine the status and to detect trends in contaminants levels and effects.

The first of these three surveys, the National Assessment of Contaminants in Coastal Sediments, measures concentrations of about 70 toxic chemical contaminants in surficial sediment from about 300 locations around the coasts of the U.S. It uses these data to assess the national distribution of sediment contaminants and to identify areas with elevated contaminant levels. This survey is presently being repeated to detect changes in the levels in contaminants in coastal surficial sediment over the past decade.

The second of these surveys was directed at providing a longer term assessment of national trends in contaminants in coastal areas, especially as these relate to anthropogenic influences. It involves the collection of sediment cores from a number of contaminated coastal areas. These cores are dated and analyzed for contaminants at a number of levels to establish variations in contaminant levels over the past century or more. A comparative national evaluation of the trends at these sites from around country is being conducted.

The third survey involves a series 2- to 4-year projects to assess the magnitude and extent of biological effects in coastal areas found to have substantially elevated levels of contaminants. These surveys focus especially on sedimentary contamination and include measurements of sediment toxicity, benthic community composition and abundance, and sediment contaminant levels. The results of these surveys have recently been synthesized to provide a preliminary evaluation on a national scale of the extent of sediment toxicity in major U.S. estuaries.


Robertson, Andrew; NOAA/NOS, N/ORCA2; 1305 East-West Highway; Silver Spring, MD 20910. Currently Chief of the Coastal Monitoring and Bioeffects Assessment Division in the Office of Ocean Resources and Conservation Assessment in NOAA's National Ocean Service. An aquatic ecologist with research experience in Great Lakes and marine ecological studies and in monitoring and assessment concerning estuarine and Great Lakes contaminant distributions and effects.

Workshop Proceedings
Contributions from Other Federal Agencies
Contribution from the USGS