Community response of deep-sea soft-sediment metazoan meiofauna to the Deepwater Horizon blowout and oil spill
Montagna, P. A
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The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout and oil spill of 2010 released an estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Spill-related contaminants that sank to the seafloor pose risks to benthic fauna living within bottom substrates that are unable to avoid exposure due to their relatively sedentary existence. Metazoan meiofauna are abundant and diverse members of deep-sea soft-sediment communities and play important roles in ecosystem function. We investigated the deep-sea metazoan meiofauna community response to the DWH blowout and oil spill at 66 stations ranging from <1 km to nearly 200 km from the Mississippi Canyon Block 252 wellhead. Metazoan meiofauna abundance, diversity, and the nematode to copepod ratio (N:C) varied significantly across impact zones. Nematode dominance increased significantly with increasing impacts, and N:C spiked near the wellhead. Conversely, major taxonomic diversity and evenness decreased in zones of greater impacts that were in closer proximity to the DWH wellhead. Copepod abundance and the abundance of minor meiofauna taxa decreased where impacts were most severe, and at these severely impacted stations the abundance of ostracods and kinorhynchs was negligible. Increasing abundance and dominance by nematodes with increasing impacts likely represent a balance between organic enrichment and toxicity. Spatial analysis of meiofauna diversity and N:C at 66 stations increased our spatial understanding of the DWH benthic footprint and suggests expanded spatial impacts in areas previously identified as uncertain.