Dredging and dumping of dredged sediments in estuarine and coastal waters may lead to increased turbidity and enhanced sediment deposition at dump sites. This mainly affects primary production by phytoplankton, performance of visual predators (e.g. fish, birds), and growth and survival of benthic organisms. This paper combines a compilation of literature information and results of additional experimental studies on the effect of enhanced concentrations of suspended matter (SPM) on growth of bivalve molluscs, and on survival of macro- and meiozoobenthos after dumping of dredged sediments. Furthermore, it focuses on non-toxic dredged sediments only. Release of nutrients from dredged sediments did, so far, hardly influence estuarine phytoplankton production. Increased turbidity may affect dab as well as prey location by sandwich terns. Enhanced SPM-concentrations are unfavourable for young herring and smelt. Growth of filter-feeding bivalves may be impaired, especially at SPM-concentrations >250 mg/l. Estuarine nematodes can survive burial by 10 cm of dumped dredged sediment provided that its physical characteristics are similar to those of the original sediment. Sessile benthos organisms such as mussels and oysters can cope with sediment deposition of only 1–2 cm. Other macrozoobenthos can survive sediment deposition of 20–30 cm. Recovery of benthos at a dump site will occur if the interval between successive dumpings is sufficiently long. Options for management of dumping of dredged sediments are described, relating to different locations of dump sites in estuarine and coastal waters, to different seasons, and to the actual use (area and frequency) of dump sites.
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