Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Issue 5, pp 1385–1398 | Cite as

Fish Assemblages in Louisiana Salt Marshes: Effects of the Macondo Oil Spill

  • Kenneth W. Able
  • Paola C. López-Duarte
  • F. Joel Fodrie
  • Olaf P. Jensen
  • Charles W. Martin
  • Brian J. Roberts
  • Jessica Valenti
  • Kathleen O’Connor
  • Shanina C. Halbert


Marsh-resident fishes play important roles as both predators and prey in coastal systems, influence secondary production, and are important trophic links to adjacent coastal waters. As such, they also serve as sentinel species in efforts to understand the magnitude and implications of anthropogenic habitat disturbance or degradation. An evaluation of the juvenile and adult marsh fish response to the Macondo oil spill in 2010 was conducted in 2012 and 2013 by sampling in both oiled and unoiled marshes in coastal Louisiana. To complement this analysis, we also examined marsh-fish assemblage structure across several subhabitats (marsh edge, creeks, ponds, depressions). The fauna, collected with traps, was dominated by cyprinodontiform fishes (Fundulus grandis, Fundulus xenicus) and complemented by others in this group (Cyprinodon variegatus, Poecilia latipinna, Fundulus pulvereus, Fundulus jenkinsi, Fundulus similis). Among the dominant species, abundance was often the highest in ponds and marsh surface depressions, with many fish species also commonly found in creeks, but few fish were collected along the marsh edge. Comparisons across representative oiled and unoiled sites from Caminada, Terrebonne, and Barataria Bays did not reflect any consistent differences in species composition, abundance, and size as a function of oiling 2–3 years after the oil spill reached Louisiana marshes. This interpretation may be confounded by multiple stressors, including natural events (e.g., oil redistribution by storms, and seasonal flooding of the marsh surface), and other man-made perturbations (e.g., freshwater discharge).


Macondo oil spill Gulf of Mexico Marshes Subhabitat Killifishes 



Several individuals supported this research. Gene Turner and Ed Overton provided data and insights on the distribution and degree of oiling in marshes. Chuck Wall, Erick Swenson, and Gene Turner provided information on vegetation types at study sites. Additional logistical support was provided by our Coastal Waters Consortium (CWC) collaborators. Funding was provided by The BP/Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative program through the CWC. The funders had no role in the design, execution, or analyses of this project. Three students involved in the study were supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) awards: O’Connor and Valenti through Rutgers University (Grant No. OCE-1062894) and Halbert through LUMCON (Grant No. OCE-1063036). This paper is Rutgers University Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences Contribution No 2014-4.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kenneth W. Able
    • 1
  • Paola C. López-Duarte
    • 1
  • F. Joel Fodrie
    • 3
  • Olaf P. Jensen
    • 2
  • Charles W. Martin
    • 4
  • Brian J. Roberts
    • 5
  • Jessica Valenti
    • 6
  • Kathleen O’Connor
    • 7
  • Shanina C. Halbert
    • 8
  1. 1.Rutgers University Marine Field Station, Institute of Marine and Coastal SciencesRutgers, The State University of New JerseyTuckertonUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Marine and Coastal SciencesRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Institute of Marine Sciences & Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel HillMorehead CityUSA
  4. 4.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  5. 5.Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON), DeFelice Marine CenterChauvinUSA
  6. 6.The Richard Stockton College of New JerseyGallowayUSA
  7. 7.Colby-Sawyer CollegeNew LondonUSA
  8. 8.Haverford CollegeLower MerionUSA

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