Limit, cease or prohibit the dumping of sewage sludge

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
    70%
  • Certainty
    47%
  • Harms
    0%

Source countries

Key messages

  • Two studies examined the effects of ceasing or prohibiting the dumping of sewage sludge on subtidal benthic invertebrate populations. One study was in the New York Bight (USA), one in the North Sea (UK).

 

COMMUNITY RESPONSE (2 STUDIES)

  • Overall community composition (2 studies): One before-and-after, site comparison study in the New York Bight found that after ceasing sewage sludge dumping, overall invertebrate community composition became more similar to less disturbed sites. One replicated, site comparison study in the North Sea found that overall invertebrate community composition changed but remained different to that of natural sites.

POPULATION RESPONSE (2 STUDIES)

  • Overall abundance (1 study): One replicated, site comparison study in the North Sea found that after ceasing sewage sludge dumping, overall invertebrate abundance became similar to that of natural sites.
  • Worm abundance (1 study): One before-and-after, site comparison study in the New York Bight found that after ceasing sewage sludge dumping, abundance of pollution-indicator polychaete worms decreased and became similar to that of natural sites.

About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A before-and-after, site comparison study in 1987–1989 of three sandy sites in the inner New York Bight, North Atlantic Ocean, USA (Vitaliano et al. 2007) found that over the 21 months after sewage-sludge dumping ceased, invertebrate community composition became more similar to that of historically less-disturbed sites. Community data were reported as graphical analyses and statistical model results. In addition, the abundance of the pollution-indicator polychaete worm Capitella spp. decreased after dumping had ceased (before: 0–3,000; after: 0–43 individuals/0.1 m2) to similar levels as natural sites (approximately 0). Community composition at the less-disturbed sites remained stable over time. In 1987, dumping of sewage sludge in an area 22 km off the coast stopped after 63 years of activity. Monthly in July 1986–December 1987 (before complete cessation) and in January 1988–December 1989 (after cessation), one impacted site and two adjacent sites (low impact; no impact) were sampled at 29–31 m depths using a 0.1 m2 sediment grab. Each time, three samples were collected, and invertebrates (>0.5 mm) identified and counted.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A replicated, site comparison study in 1999–2001 in one soft seabed area along the Northumberland coast, North Sea, UK (Birchenough et al. 2009) found that ceasing the disposal of sewage sludge led to changes in invertebrate community composition and decreases in overall invertebrate abundance over time. Community composition at the sewage sites changed over the three years after disposal stopped but remained different to that of the natural sites (data presented as graphical analyses and statistical model results). After one year, invertebrate abundance had decreased at the sewage sites (169–194 individuals/0.1 m2) compared to three months after sewage dumping stopped (245–405), and was similar to that of natural sites (180–188). In December 1998, disposal of sewage sludge ceased at a site 10–13 km off the coast. Between 1999 and 2001 samples were collected annually in March, August, and December (except March 2000). Five samples were collected using sediment grabs (0.1 m2) at each of four sites: two located at the sewage site, and two natural sites located 9–10 km away. Invertebrates (>0.5 mm) were identified and counted.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Lemasson, A.J., Pettit, L.R., Smith, R.K. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation. Pages 635-732 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.

Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

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Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation
Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation

Subtidal Benthic Invertebrate Conservation - Published 2020

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