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Changes in Redox Conditions of Surface Sediments Following the Deepwater Horizon and Ixtoc 1 Events

  • David W. HastingsEmail author
  • Thea Bartlett
  • Gregg R. Brooks
  • Rebekka A. Larson
  • Kelly A. Quinn
  • Daniel Razionale
  • Patrick T. Schwing
  • Libia Hascibe Pérez Bernal
  • Ana Carolina Ruiz-Fernández
  • Joan-Albert Sánchez-Cabeza
  • David J. Hollander
Chapter

Abstract

Following the blowout of the Macondo well, a sedimentation pulse resulted in significant changes in sedimentary redox conditions. This is demonstrated by downcore and temporal changes in the concentration of redox-sensitive metals: Mn and Re. Sediment cores collected in the NE Gulf of Mexico reveal increased sedimentation after the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout. The formation of mucous-rich marine snow in surface waters and subsequent rapid deposition to sediments is the likely cause. Respiration of this material resulted in decreased pore-water oxygen and a shoaled redoxcline, resulting in two distinct Mn peaks in sediments following the event, one typically in the top 5–7 mm, with the other at 20–30 mm. Cores near the wellhead reveal this nonsteady-state behavior for 3–5 years after the event. A time series reveals that bulk sediment Re increased 3–4 times compared to the pre-impact baseline value for 2–3 years indicating sediments are increasingly more reducing. Three years after the blowout, subsurface Re reaches a plateau suggesting a return to steady-state conditions. In select sites where benthic foraminifera were counted, an assemblage-wide decrease is coincident with reducing conditions, demonstrating the important consequences of changing redox conditions on benthic ecosystems.

Another major submarine blowout in the southern Gulf of Mexico (Ixtoc 1; 1979–1980) released a large volume of crude oil below the surface. We observe multiple Mn oxide peaks associated with a shoaling redoxcline and Re maxima associated with more reducing conditions. Nonsteady-state behavior at sites near DWH and Ixtoc 1 is consistent with a MOSSFA (marine oil snow sedimentation and flocculent accumulation) event at both locations.

Keywords

Oil spill Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon Redox Trace metal Rhenium Manganese 

Notes

Acknowledgments

Many thanks to the numerous Eckerd College undergraduate students who helped in the laboratory and at sea including Brigid Carr, Shannon Hammaker, Chloe Holzinger, Farley Miller, Claire Miller, and Corday Selden. Grateful acknowledgments to Alan Shiller, who provided important insight at a critical time. We are grateful to the exceptional crew of the R/V Weatherbird II for their skilled help at sea collecting samples and staying safe during the field operations.

This research was made possible by funding from The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative to the Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE) Consortium Deep and the Deep Sea to Coast Connectivity in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico (Deep-C) Consortium. We also acknowledge partial funding for summer student support from Eckerd College NSSRP program. The complete data set, including all elements determined by ICP-MS, can be accessed at the GRIIDC website: https://data.gulfresearchinitiative.org/ (doi: 10.7266/N7DN43JM; 10.7266/N7C24TD; 10.7266/N7RX9914).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • David W. Hastings
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thea Bartlett
    • 2
  • Gregg R. Brooks
    • 1
  • Rebekka A. Larson
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kelly A. Quinn
    • 2
  • Daniel Razionale
    • 1
  • Patrick T. Schwing
    • 2
  • Libia Hascibe Pérez Bernal
    • 3
  • Ana Carolina Ruiz-Fernández
    • 3
  • Joan-Albert Sánchez-Cabeza
    • 3
  • David J. Hollander
    • 2
  1. 1.Eckerd CollegeSt. PetersburgUSA
  2. 2.College of Marine Science, University of South FloridaSt. PetersburgUSA
  3. 3.Instituto de Ciencias del Mar y Limnología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMexico CityMexico

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