Dredged materials from maintenance and deepening of inlets on coastal barriers are typically transported for disposal in deep water or on land. An alternative is to treat dredged materials as a resource, placing them on the ebb-tidal delta or subtidal shoals at depths where they are retained within the long-shore transport system and can nourish eroding down-drift beaches. Deposition of sediments onto subtidal shoals may, however, bury and selectively kill populations of benthic invertebrates, or indirectly alter assemblages by modifying sediment characteristics. Core sampling of the eastern (control) and western (disturbed) sides of Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina, twice before and once 8 months after a large (660,000 m3) disposal revealed significant coarsening of sediments and associated changes to assemblages of benthic macroinvertebrates in response to the perturbation. Impacts to sediments and macroinverte-brates were closely correlated and, although greatest where sediment was directly deposited, extended over a wider (at least 1 km to the east) area than the deposition. Of the taxa comprising faunal assemblages, spionid polychaetes were most affected by the disposal, declining in abundance. These results, which tie the deposition and dispersal of coarse sediments on an ebb-tidal delta to changes in benthos, imply a biological cost that may be less than that of direct nourishment of biologically productive intertidal beaches.
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Vol. 2006 • No. 223