Deep-Sea Benthic Faunal Impacts and Community Evolution Before, During, and After the Deepwater Horizon Event

  • Paul A. MontagnaEmail author
  • Fanny Girard


Oil from the Deepwater Horizon blowout reached the seafloor through deep-sea plumes and sedimentation of oil and oiled marine snow. This oil caused extensive damage over wide areas to both hard-bottom and soft-bottom communities. The most sensitive bioindicators were deep-sea planar octocorals for hard-bottoms and macrofauna and meiofauna diversity and taxa richness for soft-bottoms. Both hard-bottom and soft-bottom communities are very vulnerable to deep-sea oil spills. Deep-sea corals grow slowly and thus have extremely slow recovery rates. Four years after the spill, there was no recovery of the lost biodiversity of the macrofauna and meiofauna. Future research should be focused toward recovery and restoration. For hard-bottoms this could take the form of restoration projects. For soft-bottoms the restoration strategy could be “restoration in place” because fresh sediments, which fall to the seafloor continuously, can cap the contaminated sediments over time. Both strategies require monitoring to ensure desired outcomes are achieved.


Biodiversity Deep-sea coral Infauna Macrofauna Meiofauna Oil spill Sediments 



The synthesis of this research was made possible by grants from the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative through the Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem (C-IMAGE).


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico StudiesCorpus ChristiUSA
  2. 2.Institut Français de Recherche pour l’Exploitation de la Mer (Ifremer), Département Etude des Ecosystèmes Profonds, Laboratoire Environnement Profond, Centre de BrestPlouzanéFrance

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