Assessing Early Responses of Natural Coastal Systems to Oil and Dispersant Contamination along the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Author(s): Ervin, G.

Coastal habitats being impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill include beaches, barrier islands, shallow water habitats (seagrass beds and other submersed vegetation), and coastal marshes and estuaries. Some effects of this spill are obvious, but there are more subtle effects of the oil and dispersants that will cascade throughout coastal ecosystems of the Northern Gulf of Mexico, and unfortunately, little is known regarding those complex, ecosystem-level impacts. We are engaged in research that aims to improve understanding of environmental effects of oil and dispersant mixtures on shallow water habitats, wetlands, and beach sediments, and biological degradation of the oil and dispersant mixtures. Our approach is to assess early responses of intertidal habitats to oil/dispersant contamination, and interactions between oil/dispersant systems and soil/sediment microbial assemblages. Remote sensing analyses are being used to develop algorithms for diagnosing stress and/or dieoff of intertidal marsh vegetation. Multiple methodologies are being used to investigate impacts on microbial assemblages, including rates of incorporation of oil/dispersants into microbial biomass, metabolic shifts in the microbial assemblages, and factors influencing microbial metabolism of the oil and dispersants.

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Technical Sessions

Session I Sedimentation
Session II Weather/Climate
Session III Coastal Resources
Session IV Surface Water Management
Session V Wetlands
Session VI Education
Session VII Management/Planning
Session VIII Wetlands
Session IX Delta Groundwater
Session X Nutrients
Session XI Delta Water Resources
Session XII Ports

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