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What Promotes the Recovery of Salt Marsh Infauna After Oil Spills?

  • J. W. Fleeger
  • M. R. Riggio
  • I. A. Mendelssohn
  • Q. Lin
  • D. R. Deis
  • D. S. Johnson
  • K. R. Carman
  • S. A. Graham
  • S. Zengel
  • A. Hou
Article

Abstract

Many factors influence the rate at which biotic communities recover from environmental disasters, and a thorough understanding of these factors is needed to formulate effective mitigation strategies. The importance of foundation species, soil environmental quality, and benthic microalgae to the long-term recovery of the salt marsh infaunal community following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill was examined in northern Barataria Bay, LA, from 2011 to 2016. The community of 12 abundant taxa of meiofauna and juvenile macroinfauna began to rebound from oiling in < 2 years, but did not fully recover after 6.5 years. The pace and intensity of recovery of nematodes, copepods, most polychaetes, tanaids, juvenile bivalves, and amphipods were significantly and positively related to the recovery of Spartina alterniflora and benthic microalgae. However, total petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations remained elevated over time, and live belowground plant biomass, bulk density, dead aboveground plant biomass, and live aboveground biomass of Juncus roemerianus were not resilient, indicating that soil quality at oiled sites was insufficient to foster the recovery of the infaunal community as a whole. Recovery of the kinorhynch Echinoderes coulli, the polychaete Manayunkia aestuarina, ostracods, and juvenile gastropods was suppressed in association with these factors. Foundation species enhance salt marsh infaunal recovery by modifying habitat in the short term and improving soil quality over the longer term. Therefore, efforts to enhance the recovery of foundation species (e.g., by plantings) should benefit the recovery of microalgal primary producers and benthic consumers after oiling in salt marshes.

Keywords

Deepwater Horizon oil spill Resiliency Infauna Salt marsh Foundation species Benthic microalgae 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank Stefan Bourgoin for assistance with the creation of the sampling site map.

Funding Information

This research was made possible by a grant from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative.

Supplementary material

12237_2018_443_MOESM1_ESM.docx (382 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 382 kb)

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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • J. W. Fleeger
    • 1
  • M. R. Riggio
    • 1
  • I. A. Mendelssohn
    • 2
  • Q. Lin
    • 2
  • D. R. Deis
    • 3
  • D. S. Johnson
    • 4
  • K. R. Carman
    • 5
  • S. A. Graham
    • 6
  • S. Zengel
    • 7
  • A. Hou
    • 8
  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Oceanography and Coastal SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  3. 3.AtkinsJacksonvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceCollege of William & MaryGloucester PointUSA
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of Nevada-RenoRenoUSA
  6. 6.Department of Biological SciencesNicholls State UniversityThibodauxUSA
  7. 7.Research Planning, Inc. (RPI)TallahasseeUSA
  8. 8.Department of Environmental SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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