Functional response of an adapted subtidal macrobenthic community to an oil spill: macrobenthic structure and bioturbation activity over time throughout an 18-month field experiment
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- Gilbert, F., Stora, G. & Cuny, P. Environ Sci Pollut Res (2015) 22: 15285. doi:10.1007/s11356-014-3906-4
An experimental oil spill was carried out in order to assess in situ responses of a macrobenthic community of shallow subtidal sediments historically exposed to petroleum contamination. Both structural and functional (bioturbation activity) parameters of the community, subjected or not to a pulse acute contamination (25,000 ppm), were studied for 18 months. No difference in the community structure was detected between contaminated and control sediments, from 6 to 18 months of experimentation. Vertical distributions of organisms, however, were affected by the presence of oil contamination leading to a deeper burial of some polychaete species. In the same time, changes in sediment-reworking activity and more especially a deeper particle burying in sediments subjected to acute oil contamination were shown. These results highlight the need to complete the analysis of community structure by assessing functional aspects, such as bioturbation activity, a process integrating various aspects of benthic behaviour (e.g. feeding, locomotion, burrow building) in order to estimate real (structural and functional) and long-term effects of oil contamination on benthic communities.