Environmental quality assessment of Grand Harbour (Valletta, Maltese Islands): a case study of a busy harbour in the Central Mediterranean Sea.
Contamination levels by plastic debris, trace elements and persistent organic pollutants were assessed and related to macrobenthic diversity within soft bottoms of Grand Harbour (Malta, Central Mediterranean). Sediment toxicity was evaluated by ecotoxicological method, deploying Bacteria (Vibrio fischeri), Echinodermata (Paracentrotus lividus) and Crustacea (Corophium orientale). Univariate analysis (Pearson's test) was used to test relationships between biodiversity indices, pollutants and grain size. A multivariate approach (PERMANOVA) was applied to investigate for any significant differences among sampling stations concerning plastic abundances and to test the relationship between infaunal abundances and pollutant concentrations (the BIOENV test). Significant differences in the plastic abundances were found between sampling stations. The lowest value for Shannon-Wiener biodiversity index was associated to the highest sediment pollution level. Multivariate analyses suggest that MBT and TBT were factors that most influenced macrozoobenthic abundance and biodiversity. The bivalve Corbula gibba and the introduced polychaete Monticellina dorsobranchialis were the most abundant found species.