New objectives regarding the improvement of water quality as well as problems with the resuspension and land deposition of dredged materials require a standardized assessment of sediment quality. Numerical approaches are based on the accumulation, pore water concentrations, solid/liquid partition and elution properties of contaminants; these non-biological schemes can be extended and completed by additional biological criteria. Specific biological approaches have been combined with chemical surveys (for example Sediment Quality Triad). In Germany, numerical criteria are based on the background approach. Biological criteria approaches include bioassays on sediment, porewater and elutriates; recent developments are directed towards microbial solid phase bioassays. Special emphasis is placed on the characteristics of the mineral and organic solid substrate, in particular, buffer capacity against pH-depression; these components should be classified on the basis of the carbonate and sulfide inventories.

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