Tallahassee, FL, United States
Tallahassee, FL, United States

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Fleeger J.W.,Louisiana State University | Carman K.R.,Louisiana State University | Carman K.R.,University of Nevada, Reno | Riggio M.R.,Louisiana State University | And 5 more authors.
Marine Ecology Progress Series | Year: 2015

We examined the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on benthic microalgae and meiofauna in Louisiana, USA, salt marshes. Further, we quantified recovery over 4 yr and compared it to recovery of the dominant salt marsh macrophyte Spartina alterniflora. Although impacts were apparent at lightly and moderately oiled sites, negative effects on microalgal biomass and meiofaunal abundance and diversity were strongest in heavily oiled marshes where almost complete mortality of S. alterniflora occurred. However, these metrics, as well as photo - synthetic pigment composition and meiofauna community composition, indicated substantial recovery ∼36 mo post-spill, coincident with recovery of S. alterniflora stem density, even in heavily oiled marshes. Meiofaunal diversity (as measured by copepod species richness) in the earliest stages of recovery was highest where recovering S. alterniflora stems were most dense, and overall, meiofauna recovery was more closely linked to S. alterniflora than to vegetative recovery per se. However, for the polychaete Manayunkia aestuarina, ostracods and kinorhynchs, recovery was still ongoing 4 yr after the spill. These findings suggest that the important ecological services provided in support of food webs by benthic microalgae (a principal basal food resource) and meiofauna (a principal consumer of benthic microalgae and dietary resource to higher trophic levels) largely returned coincident with the recovery of S. alterniflora. S. alterniflora may therefore be a good indicator for the broader recovery of salt marsh infaunal benthos, at least in marshes without accelerated shoreline erosion induced by oiling. Copyright © 2015 Inter-Research.


Zengel S.,Inc. RPI | Pennings S.C.,University of Houston | Silliman B.,Duke University | Montague C.,University of Florida | And 5 more authors.
Estuaries and Coasts | Year: 2016

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest marine oil spill in US waters to date and one of the largest worldwide. Impacts of this spill on salt marsh vegetation have been well documented, although impacts on marsh macroinvertebrates have received less attention. To examine impacts of the oil spill on an important marsh invertebrate and ecosystem engineer, we conducted a meta-analysis on fiddler crabs (Uca spp.) using published sources and newly available Natural Resources Damage Assessment (NRDA) and Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) data. Fiddler crabs influence marsh ecosystem structure and function through their burrowing and feeding activities and are key prey for a number of marsh and estuarine predators. We tested the hypothesis that the spill affected fiddler crab burrow density (crab abundance), burrow diameter (crab size), and crab species composition. Averaged across multiple studies, sites, and years, our synthesis revealed a negative effect of oiling on all three metrics. Burrow densities were reduced by 39 % in oiled sites, with impacts and incomplete recovery observed over 2010–2014. Burrow diameters were reduced from 2010 to 2011, but appeared to have recovered by 2012. Fiddler crab species composition was altered through at least 2013 and only returned to reference conditions where marsh vegetation recovered, via restoration planting in one case. Given the spatial and temporal extent of data analyzed, this synthesis provides compelling evidence that the Deepwater Horizon spill suppressed populations of fiddler crabs in oiled marshes, likely affecting other ecosystem attributes, including marsh productivity, marsh soil characteristics, and associated predators. © 2016 The Author(s)


Zengel S.,Inc. RPI | Montague C.L.,University of Florida | Pennings S.C.,University of Houston | Powers S.P.,Dauphin Island Sea Laboratory | And 8 more authors.
Environmental Science and Technology | Year: 2016

Deepwater Horizon was the largest marine oil spill in U.S. waters, oiling large expanses of coastal wetland shorelines. We compared marsh periwinkle (Littoraria irrorata) density and shell length at salt marsh sites with heavy oiling to reference conditions ∼16 months after oiling. We also compared periwinkle density and size among oiled sites with and without shoreline cleanup treatments. Densities of periwinkles were reduced by 80-90% at the oiled marsh edge and by 50% in the oiled marsh interior (∼9 m inland) compared to reference, with greatest numerical losses of periwinkles in the marsh interior, where densities were naturally higher. Shoreline cleanup further reduced adult snail density as well as snail size. Based on the size of adult periwinkles observed coupled with age and growth information, population recovery is projected to take several years once oiling and habitat conditions in affected areas are suitable to support normal periwinkle life-history functions. Where heavily oiled marshes have experienced accelerated erosion as a result of the spill, these habitat impacts would represent additional losses of periwinkles. Losses of marsh periwinkles would likely affect other ecosystem processes and attributes, including organic matter and nutrient cycling, marsh-estuarine food chains, and multiple species that prey on periwinkles. © 2015 American Chemical Society.


PubMed | University of Houston, Industrial Economics Inc., Inc. RPI, Research South, Inc. and 4 more.
Type: Journal Article | Journal: Environmental science & technology | Year: 2016

Deepwater Horizon was the largest marine oil spill in U.S. waters, oiling large expanses of coastal wetland shorelines. We compared marsh periwinkle (Littoraria irrorata) density and shell length at salt marsh sites with heavy oiling to reference conditions 16 months after oiling. We also compared periwinkle density and size among oiled sites with and without shoreline cleanup treatments. Densities of periwinkles were reduced by 80-90% at the oiled marsh edge and by 50% in the oiled marsh interior (9 m inland) compared to reference, with greatest numerical losses of periwinkles in the marsh interior, where densities were naturally higher. Shoreline cleanup further reduced adult snail density as well as snail size. Based on the size of adult periwinkles observed coupled with age and growth information, population recovery is projected to take several years once oiling and habitat conditions in affected areas are suitable to support normal periwinkle life-history functions. Where heavily oiled marshes have experienced accelerated erosion as a result of the spill, these habitat impacts would represent additional losses of periwinkles. Losses of marsh periwinkles would likely affect other ecosystem processes and attributes, including organic matter and nutrient cycling, marsh-estuarine food chains, and multiple species that prey on periwinkles.

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