Sediment Toxicity

Flora and fauna that live in streams are often exposed to toxic contaminants which have accumulated in sediments. The toxic effect of these contaminants to animal life cannot be predicted simply from the total amount of contaminant present.

Factors such as sediment chemistry and the manner in which the flora and fauna feed determine, in part, to what extent aquatic organisms take up the contaminants. Drs. Laurel Standley and Thomas Bott investigated chemical and biological factors that influence the accumulation of toxic contaminants in biota living on or within sediments.

Many decisions about environmental exposure to contaminants — such as whether to allow the dredging of river channels or the consumption of fish and shellfish — are now based on procedures that use strong chemical solvents. Standley and Bott’s work documents that such an approach is overly simplistic and does not adequately mimic nature.