The oligochaete fauna at 40 stations in western Lake Erie were collected in 1982 and compared to oligochaete fauna collected similarly in 1961. A total of 34 taxa, representing 18 Tubificidae and 16 Naididae, were identified. Changes in the proportions of low, moderate, and heavy polluted sediments, as determined by ranges of total numbers of oligochaetes, indicate that, in general, heavy pollution substantially decreased near shore and moderate pollution increased and low pollution decreased in open waters over the 21-year comparison. The most common taxon, the eutrophic species, Limnodrilus hoffmeisteri, decreased in abudnance in open water, indicating decreased eutrophication, whereas the distribution and abundance of other indicator taxa, including the eutrophic species L. maumeensis, L. cervix, Quistadrilus multisetosus multisetosus, and mesotrophic species Ilyodrilus templetoni and three species of Aulodrilus indicate increased eutrophication in open water. In general, oligochaete trophic indices (based on tubificid species and abundances) in traditional area designations used in 1961, the nearshore designation (<3.5 km from shore), and areas defined by cluster analysis confirm results of less eutrophic substrates near shore. However, traditional analysis indicates that low pollution was replaced by moderate pollution in open waters and cluster analysis indicates that the zone of least detectable pollution increased in open waters over the 21-year comparison. It may be that the open waters of western Lake Erie were in a stage of transition between pollution designations when sampled in 1982. The present study is valuable because it provides a baseline to assess environmental changes observed in western Lake Erie after many years of pollution abatement programs and before the exponential increase in densities of the trophic shifting zebra mussel Dreissena polymorpha.
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Oligochaete fauna of western Lake Erie 1961 and 1982: Signs of sediment quality recovery