A Synthesis of Top-Down and Bottom-Up Impacts of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Using Ecosystem Modeling

  • Lindsey N. Dornberger
  • Cameron H. Ainsworth
  • Felicia Coleman
  • Dana L. Wetzel


The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (GoM) triggered the largest response to a spill in US history (Levy and Gopalakrishnan, J Nat Resources Pol Res, 2(3):297–315, 2010; Barron, Toxicol Pathol 40(2):315–320, 2012). The cumulative research from this response has resulted in hundreds of publications describing the range of impacts from the DWH event on various components of the system. An ecosystem-based approach to assessing the consequences of the DWH oil spill can help to address non-linear and ecosystem-level interactions (reviewed by Curtin and Prellezo, Mar Policy 34(5):821–830, 2010) and would be a key step toward integrating the knowledge gained from research efforts. Whereas Ainsworth et al. (PLoS One 13(1):e0190840, 2018) tested top-down effects of the oil spill on fish abundance and mortality, this chapter represents a synthesis of bottom-up and top-down effects across a broader range of taxa. Bottom-up effects relate to the accumulation of detrital biomass and oil on the seafloor as a result of marine oil snow sedimentation and flocculent accumulation (MOSSFA).


Atlantis Ecosystem modeling Oil toxicity Cumulative effects Fishing mortality 


Funding Information

This research was made possible by grants from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative through its consortia: the Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) and the Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (Deep-C). Data are publicly available through the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative Information and Data Cooperative (GRIIDC) at (doi: 10.7266/n7-dx3q-4y78).


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey N. Dornberger
    • 1
  • Cameron H. Ainsworth
    • 1
  • Felicia Coleman
    • 2
  • Dana L. Wetzel
    • 3
  1. 1.University of South Florida, College of Marine ScienceSt. PetersburgUSA
  2. 2.Florida State University, Coastal and Marine LaboratorySt. TeresaUSA
  3. 3.Mote Marine LaboratorySarasotaUSA

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