The potential influence of short-period (May-June 2012) dredging activities (for the installation of a submarine gas pipeline) on physical properties of the marine environment of two shallow-water sites in the Aliveri and Varnavas areas of South Euboean Gulf (Greece) has been evaluated. During the dredging operation in Varnavas, the induced dredge plume traveled up to ~ 750 m from the shoreline, featured by light attenuation coefficient (cp) maxima of 4.01-4.61 m-1 and suspended particulate matter (SPM) concentrations up to 6.01 mg L-1. After dredging the previous parameters reduced to the ambient seawater condition, ~ 0.45 m-1 and < 2.8 mg L-1 on average, respectively. Likewise in Aliveri, the dredging-associated sediment plume drifted offshore up to ~ 400 m from the shoreline, characterized by cp maxima of 2.11-4.86 m-1 and SPM concentrations up to 13.07 mg L-1. After the completion of the excavation and trenching activities, the cp and SPM values were restored to the pre-disturbance condition, ~ 0.6 m-1 and < 2.2 mg L-1 on average, respectively. The migration of the dredge plume in both dredging sites was accomplished through the formation of intermediate and benthic nepheloid layers, whose development and evolution were governed by seawater stratification and flow regime. The dredging-derived SPM levels appeared to increase within a distance of no more than 300 m from the shoreline (near-field zone). Based on data from the literature, this SPM enhancement together with the deposition of a post-dredging residual mud veneer in the near-field zone could deteriorate local marine biota, but in a reversible way.
Keywords: Dredge plume; Environmental monitoring; Light attenuation coefficient; Submarine pipeline trenching; Suspended particulate matter.