Anthropogenic disturbances in wetland ecosystems can alter the composition and structure of plant assemblages and affect system functions. Extensive oil and gas extraction has occurred in wetland habitats along the northern Gulf of Mexico coast since the early 1900s. Activities involved with three-dimensional (3D) seismic exploration for these resources cause various disturbances to vegetation and soils. We documented the impact of a 3D seismic survey in coastal marshes in Louisiana, USA, along transects established before exploration began. Two semi-impounded marshes dominated by Spartina patens were in the area surveyed. Vegetation, soil, and water physicochemical data were collected before the survey, about 6 weeks following its completion, and every 3 months thereafter for 2 years. Soil cores for seed bank emergence experiments were also collected. Maximum vegetation height at impact sites was reduced in both marshes 6 weeks following the survey. In one marsh, total vegetation cover was also reduced, and dead vegetation cover increased, at impact sites 6 weeks after the survey. These effects, however, did not persist 3 months later. No effects on soil or water properties were identified. The total number of seeds that germinated during greenhouse studies increased at impact sites 5 months following the survey in both marshes. Although some seed bank effects persisted 1 year, these effects were not reflected in standing vegetation. The marshes studied were therefore resilient to the impacts resulting from 3D seismic exploration because vegetation responses were short term in that they could not be identified a few months following survey completion.
Additional publication details
Effects of disturbance associated with seismic exploration for oil and gas reserves in coastal marshes