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Rapid recovery of benthic invertebrates downstream of hyperalkaline steel slag discharges

Hull, S. L.; Oty, U. V.; Mayes, W. M.


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Dr Sue Hull
Senior Lecturer in Marine Biology and Ecology/ Programme Director, Marine Biology

U. V. Oty


This study assesses the physical and chemical characteristics of hyperalkaline steel slag leachate from a former steelworks on two streams in England and their impacts on benthic invertebrate communities. Using multivariate methods (CCA), we related invertebrate richness and diversity with chemical parameters along the environmental gradient from point sources to less impacted sites downstream. Point discharges are characterised by high pH (10.6–11.5), high ionic strength (dominated by Ca–CO₃–OH waters), elevated trace elements (notably Li, Sr and V) and high rates of calcium carbonate precipitation. This combination of stressors gives rise to an impoverished benthic invertebrate community in source areas. The total abundance, taxonomic richness and densities of most observed organisms were strongly negatively correlated with water pH. Analysis using biological pollution monitoring indices (e.g. BMWP and Functional Feeding Groups) shows the system to be highly impacted at source, but when pH approaches values close to aquatic life standards, some 500 m downstream, complex biological communities become established. In addition to showing the rapid recovery of invertebrate communities downstream of the discharges, this study also provides a baseline characterisation of invertebrate communities at the extreme alkaline range of the pH spectrum.


Hull, S. L., Oty, U. V., & Mayes, W. M. (2014). Rapid recovery of benthic invertebrates downstream of hyperalkaline steel slag discharges. Hydrobiologia, 736(1), 83-97.

Acceptance Date Apr 18, 2014
Online Publication Date May 11, 2014
Publication Date 2014-09
Deposit Date Nov 11, 2015
Publicly Available Date Nov 23, 2017
Journal Hydrobiologia
Print ISSN 0018-8158
Electronic ISSN 1573-5117
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 736
Issue 1
Pages 83-97
Keywords Invertebrates, Hyperalkaline, Steel slag, Leachate, Community analysis, Monitoring
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Additional Information Author's accepted manuscript of article published in: Hydrobiologia, 2014, v.736, issue 1. The final publication is available at Springer via


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