US Geological Survey


Document Type


Date of this Version



2006 Published by Elsevier Ltd.


U.S. Government Work.


The existing scientific literature on offshore benthic assemblages (OBA) residing along the US East and Gulf of Mexico continental shelf was reviewed. Identification was made of any associations between the dominant OBA and particular sediment types and/or bathymetry. Of special interest was the evaluation of reported effects of sand dredge/mining activities on the dominant OBA and recognition of data deficiencies. One hundred and twenty-two references were selected and classified as to type of study with pertinent results extracted. Polychaetes were predominantly cited as the principal infaunal taxa present in studies from both the Gulf of Mexico and US Atlantic coast. Specifically, Prionospio cristata, Nephtys incisa, N. picta, and Spiophanes bombyx were consistently identified as a common part of the benthic community structure. Surveys from the East Coast indicated a greater diversity of dominant taxa not reported for the Gulf of Mexico than vice-versa. Robust animal–sediment or animal–depth relationships were not readily available. From the few studies available, it appears that general ‘‘recovery’’ from anthropogenic disturbance by benthic assemblages on the continental shelf occurs within three months to 2.5 years. Presently, it is difficult to draw conclusions about approximate benthic faunal recovery times following anthropogenic activities such as sand mining and/or disposal operations because of the paucity of studies.