Phylum-level meta-analysis was applied to 192 samples from a variety of dredgings disposal and relocation sites around the coast of England and Wales. No consistent relationship was found between the disturbance status of macrobenthic communities within disposal sites and the nature or amount of dredgings disposed. Differences between samples within and outside disposal sites were generally smaller than differences between different sites and various patterns of impact were detected. It is concluded that dredgings disposal has two contrasting impacts on benthic communities. One, associated with organic enrichment, leads to communities dominated by annelids and nematodes. The other, associated with intense physical disturbance, favours large motile or armoured forms, such as bivalve molluscs and crustaceans. These effects may act antagonistically, and in a phylum-level meta-analysis may cancel each other out. None of the samples examined from offshore disposal sites was grossly disturbed, in terms of the proportional contribution to production from different phyla, and overall most samples ranged from moderately disturbed to undisturbed. The ecological impacts associated with the intertidal placement of material (beneficial use schemes) were comparable to those observed for the conventional sea disposal sites
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