Temporal patterns of Deepwater Horizon impacts on the benthic infauna of the northern Gulf of Mexico continental slope
AuthorReuscher, Michael G.
Baguley, Jeffrey G.
Hyland, Jeffrey L.
Montagna, Paul A.
Ricker, Robert W.
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The Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred in spring and summer 2010 in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Research cruises in 2010 (approximately 2-3 months after the well had been capped), 2011, and 2014 were conducted to determine the initial and subsequent effects of the oil spill on deep-sea soft-bottom infauna. A total of 34 stations were sampled from two zones: 20 stations in the "impact" zone versus 14 stations in the "non-impact" zone. Chemical contaminants were significantly different between the two zones. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons averaged 218 ppb in the impact zone compared to 14 ppb in the non-impact zone. Total petroleum hydrocarbons averaged 1166 ppm in the impact zone compared to 102 ppm in the non-impact zone. While there was no difference between zones for meiofauna and macrofauna abundance, community diversity was significantly lower in the impact zone. Meiofauna taxa richness over the three sampling periods averaged 8 taxa/sample in the impact zone, compared to 10 taxa/sample in the non-impact zoneand macrofauna richness averaged 25 taxa/sample in the impact zone compared to 30 taxa/sample in the non-impact zone. Oil originating from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill reached the seafloor and had a persistent negative impact on diversity of soft-bottom, deep-sea benthic communities. While there are signs of recovery for some benthic community variables, full recovery has not yet occurred four years after the spill.