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Regional Estuary Monitoring Programme (REMP) Data Report: Benthic Macrofauna Communities and Sediments – July 2007 to April 2008

Report: TR 2010/18
Author: Nathan Singleton

Abstract

In April 2001 Environment Waikato initiated the Regional Estuary Monitoring Programme (REMP) at five permanent monitoring sites in both the southern Firth of Thames and Whaingaroa (Raglan) Harbour. It is a long-term programme with the objective of monitoring the temporal changes in intertidal sediment characteristics and benthic macrofauna communities which may occur as a direct or indirect consequence of catchment activity and/or estuary development. It is envisaged that the Regional Estuary Monitoring Programme will provide relevant information useful in setting policy and assisting with the sustainable management of estuaries in the Waikato region. This report presents the monitoring results of sediment characteristics, and a suite of 26 'indicator' taxa and abundant non-indicator taxa of the intertidal benthic communities for the period July 2007 to April 2008. 

This report documents the data from the seventh year of the monitoring programme. In addition to annual reports, detailed discussion and analysis of trends or patterns of change over time in the benthic macrofaunal communities and sediment characteristics are reported every five years in a separate trend report series for the Regional Estuary Monitoring Programme.

In the southern Firth of Thames five permanent sites were sampled in October 2007 and April 2008. In Whaingaroa Harbour five sites were sampled in October 2007 and, due to extreme weather conditions, only four in April 2008. Two sites from each harbour were additionally sampled in July 2007 and January 2008. Sampling the benthic macrofauna communities involved collecting 12 randomly located core samples from a permanent monitoring plot at each site. On each sampling occasion replicate bulked sediment samples were collected for grain-size analysis, total organic carbon and total nitrogen content. Surface scrapes were collected and analysed for chlorophyll-a and phaeophytin content.

Results from the July 2007 to April 2008 monitoring period indicate that there were only slight changes in assemblage composition in both the Firth of Thames and Whaingaroa Harbour. Overall bivalves were found to be more abundant in Whaingaroa Harbour than in the Firth of Thames, whereas polychaetes were more abundant in the Firth of Thames. Gastropods and crustaceans were also more abundant in Whaingaroa Harbour. The most consistently common taxa found at sites in the  Firth of Thames included the polychaetes Aonides oxycephala, capitellids, Magelona dakini, Aquilaspio aucklandica and Scoloplos cylindrifer; and the bivalves Nucula hartvigiana, Austrovenus stutchburyi and Paphies australis. The exotic ‘Asian date mussel’, Musculista senhousia, occurred at most sites in Firth of Thames, being most common at the Gun Club site. In Whaingaroa Harbour, consistently common taxa included the polychaetes Aquilaspio aucklandica, Cossura sp. and capitellids; and the bivalves Austrovenus stutchburyi, Nucula hartvigiana and Arthritica bifurca.

Between July 2007 and April 2008 the median grain size remained consistent at all but one site in the Firth of Thames and all sites in Whaingaroa Harbour. At most sites in the Firth of Thames and Whaingaroa Harbour, peaks in mud content occurred in October 2007. Sites in Whaingaroa Harbour were generally 2-3 times muddier than those in the Firth of Thames. In Whaingaroa Harbour the highest amount of mud occurred at Haroto Bay, which remained consistent over the one year of sampling. The shell-hash content was also consistent over the sampling period in both estuaries.

Continued monitoring will identify any patterns of temporal change in sediment characteristics and the associated benthic communities. From these time-series data we will be able to distinguish changes which may occur as a direct or indirect consequence of catchment activity and/or estuary development from natural variability.

Regional Estuary Monitoring Programme (REMP) Data Report: Benthic Macrofauna Communities and Sediments – July 2007 to April 2008
Southern Firth of Thames and Whaingaroa (Raglan) Harbour

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Table of contents

  Acknowledgements i
  Executive summary v
1 Introduction 1
2 Methods 2
2.1 Field sites and sampling regime 2
2.2 Sample collection and processing 4
2.2.1 Benthic macrofauna 4
2.2.2 Sediment characteristics 4
3 Results 5
3.1 Benthic macrofauna community structure 5
3.1.1 Southern Firth of Thames 5
3.1.2 Whaingaroa (Raglan) Harbour 5
3.2 Changes in the abundance of individual species and taxonomic groups   8
3.2.1 Southern Firth of Thames 8
3.2.2 Whaingaroa (Raglan) Harbour 12
3.3 Sediment characteristics 17
3.3.1 Surficial sediment grain-size 17
3.3.2 Shell hash 17
3.3.3 Sediment organic carbon and nitrogen content 17
3.3.4 Sediment photosynthetic pigment concentration 18
4 Discussion 21
  References 23
Appendix 1   Southern Firth of Thames species/taxonomic group abundances 24
Appendix 2 Whaingaroa Harbour species/taxonomic group abundances 38
Appendix 3 Dry weight shell-hash 51
Appendix 4 Sediment organic carbon and nitrogen content 55
Appendix 5 Sediment photosynthetic pigment concentration 57
Appendix 6 QA/QC procedures 59