Persistent impacts to the deep soft-bottom benthos one year after the Deepwater Horizon event

Date

2016-05-04

Authors

Montagna, Paul A.
Baguley, Jeffrey G.
Cooksey, Cynthia
Hyland, Jeffrey L.

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Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management

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Abstract

In fall 2010, several months after the Deepwater Horizon blowout was capped, zones of moderate and severe impacts to deep-sea, soft-bottom benthos were identified that together extended over an area of 172 km2. A subset of stations sampled in 2010 was resampled in May and June 2011, 10 to 11 months after the event, to determine whether the identified adverse effects were persisting. The design compared 20 stations from the combined moderate and severe impact zone to 12 stations in the reference zone that were sampled in both years. There were no statistically significant differences in contaminant concentrations between the impact and nonimpact zones from 2010 to 2011, which indicates contaminants persisted after 1 y. Whereas there were some signs of recovery in 2011 (particularly for the meiofauna abundance and diversity), there was evidence of persistent, statistically significant impacts to both macrofauna and meiofauna community structure. Macrofaunal taxa richness and diversity in 2011 were still 22.8% and 35.9% less, respectively, in the entire impact zone than in the surrounding nonimpact area, and meiofaunal richness was 28.5% less in the entire impact zone than in the surrounding area. The persistence of significant biodiversity losses and community structure change nearly 1 y after the wellhead was capped indicates that full recovery had yet to have occurred in 2011.

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Montagna P.A., J.G. Baguley, C. Cooksey, and J.L. Hyland. 2017. Persistent impacts to the deep soft-bottom benthos one year after the Deepwater Horizon event. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management 13: 342-351. doi: 10.1002/ieam.1791

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