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Sediment Quality Indicators: Physical Indicators

Examining the physical characteristics of sediments can provide information on habitat quality—for sediment-dwelling organisms and for fish that depend on sediment for spawning—and the potential for sediment to adsorb chemicals of interest. Sediment samples are often analyzed for the following physical indicators:

Particle Size. Sediment samples are analyzed for the relative proportion of sand, silt, and clay, as defined as:


Particle Size Range (mm)




0.002 to 0.063


0.063 to 0.2


2 to 64

Carbon Content. Organic carbon is an indicator of organic matter, including hydrocarbons, in sediments (RAMP 2005).



Cobble and boulders are the largest substrate particles.
Source: Hatfield Consultants 2007
( click to enlarge )

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