This study aims to evaluate the anthropogenic pressure in the St. Lawrence River by assessing the relationships between composition and chemical contamination of sediments and macroinvertebrate community structure using a selection of indices and metrics. The aims of this study are to (i) determine the composition of macroinvertebrate community in sediments across a gradient of disturbance, (ii) select relevant macroinvertebrate indices and metrics for the assessment of sediment quality, (iii) investigate whether responses of selected indices and metrics differ across habitats and/or sediment quality classes, and finally, (iv) determine the thresholds for critical contaminants related to significant changes in the most relevant indices and metrics. Organic and inorganic contaminants as well as other sediment variables (sediment grain size, total organic carbon, nutrients, etc.) and macroinvertebrate assemblages were determined in 59 sites along the river. Fourteen macroinvertebrate indices and metrics, on the 264 initially selected, were shown to be the most effective to be used in bioassessment for the St. Lawrence River. However, the variation in macroinvertebrate indices and metrics remains strongly explained by habitat characteristics, such as sediment grain size or the level of nutrients. There is also an influence of metals and, to a lesser extent, organic contaminants such as petroleum hydrocarbons. The 14 selected indices and metrics are promising bioassessment tools that are easy to use and interpret in an environmental assessment of sediment quality in the St. Lawrence River.
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