Impact of Deepwater Horizon Spill on food supply to deep-sea benthos communities

Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
By: , and 

Links

Abstract

Deep-sea ecosystems encompass unique and often fragile communities that are sensitive to a variety of anthropogenic and natural impacts. After the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, sampling efforts documented the acute impact of the spill on some deep-sea coral colonies. To investigate the impact of the DWH spill on quality and quantity of biomass delivered to the deep-sea, a suite of geochemical tracers (e.g., stable and radio-isotopes, lipid biomarkers, and compound specific isotopes) was measured from monthly sediment trap samples deployed near a high-density deep-coral site in the Viosca Knoll area of the north-central Gulf of Mexico prior to (Oct-2008 to Sept-2009) and after the spill (Oct-10 to Sept-11). Marine (e.g., autochthonous) sources of organic matter dominated the sediment traps in both years, however after the spill, there was a pronounced reduction in marinesourced OM, including a reduction in marine-sourced sterols and n-alkanes and a concomitant decrease in sediment trap organic carbon and pigment flux. Results from this study indicate a reduction in primary production and carbon export to the deep-sea in 2010-2011, at least 6-18 months after the spill started. Whereas satellite observations indicate an initial increase in phytoplankton biomass, results from this sediment trap study define a reduction in primary production and carbon export to the deep-sea community. In addition, a dilution from a low-14C carbon source (e.g., petrocarbon) was detected in the sediment trap samples after the spill, in conjunction with a change in the petrogenic composition. The data presented here fills a critical gap in our knowledge of biogeochemical processes and sub-acute impacts to the deep-sea that ensued after the 2010 DWH spill.

Study Area

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Impact of Deepwater Horizon Spill on food supply to deep-sea benthos communities
Series title Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
DOI 10.1016/j.ecss.2015.11.008
Volume 169
Year Published