The Center for the Integrated Modeling and Analysis of the Gulf Ecosystem

A tale of two Gulf spills: A research consortium of 19 institutions from 5 countries studying the impacts of oil spills on the Gulf of Mexico.

Full Description: Zooplankton have high temporal and spatial variability. Therefore, they need to be assessed before oil impact and regularly thereafter, to interpret what changes are causally related to oil spills. Both chronic and acute releases of PAHs have deleterious impacts on zooplankton growth rates, secondary production, consequent accumulation of biomass, and thus prey availability to higher trophic levels of fishes. Exposures for days, or weeks, to oil concentrations between 50-300 ug l-1 have sub-lethal impacts on laboratory populations of zooplankton (NRC, 1985), and PAHs are toxic to all life stages of marine fish (Logan, 2007).

Petrochemicals are particularly dangerous to eggs and larvae (Hjermann et al., 2007), with dispersants increasing the bioavailability of PAHs to fishes (Ramachandran et al., 2004). Nevertheless, after the IXTOC-1 spill in June 1979, the respective mean total zooplankton biomass a few years later during August 1980 and August 1981 had remained the same, or actually perhaps even increased, compared to a mean total biomass measured over a similar station grid in August 1978, before the oil spill (Guzman del Proo et al., 1986). However, the species composition and relative abundances of this zooplankton community of the Bay of Campeche did change.

There are two main questions to be addressed. What were the effects of hydrocarbons on pelagic and benthic communities, including planktonic and benthic algae, foraminifera and mollusks? Did BP hydrocarbons fuel a “Dirty Blizzard” by stimulating phytoplankton and zooplankton blooms, or was the observed pulse in accumulation rates due to other factors?

We are investigating the effect of hydrocarbons on key benthic ecosystems, delivered directly from the wellhead and via a “Dirty Blizzard” mechanism for the major sedimentation event during mid-2010. Projects take advantage of an extensive pre-spill dataset resulting from research on the ecology of natural and artificial reefs (Addis et al., 2008; Patterson et al., 2009; Patterson et al., 2010; Dance et al., 2011). Quarterly video samples, collected from 2004 to 2010 with remotely-operated vehicles (ROV) at 27 artificial reef sites off northwest Florida, provide baseline data on the spatial and temporal variability in reef fish community, size, and trophic structure. Similar samples were taken at 23 natural and 28 artificial reefs. Pre- versus post-spill diet and muscle stable isotope data also exist to examine shifts in trophic structure, as well as to discern whether oil carbon has been transferred to upper trophic levels.

Ongoing analysis of liver and bile samples provide baseline data to estimate level of exposure to PAHs experienced by fishes across the geographic range of sampling. We are sampling reef fish communities quarterly over the next three years with an ROV. Reef fishes also are being sampled and stomach contents fixed for diet analysis, muscle tissue sampled for stable isotope analysis, otoliths sampled for testing for growth effects, liver and bile sampled to test for exposure to PAHs, and liver and other tissues analyzed for potential pathogens affecting fish. Video samples are being analyzed to test for shifts in community structure over time, but also to examine recruitment dynamics of fishes observed at reef sites. Trawl data from the National Marine Fisheries Service’s Fall Groundfish and Summer SEAMAP stations across the northeastern GOM shelf also is being analyzed.

 

Ecosystem Impacts News & Products

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Murawski and Daly Awarded AAAS Fellow Distinction

Murawski and Daly Awarded AAAS Fellow Distinc…

AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society and is an international ...

11-24-2015

Oil Spill Research Cruise fishes up rare shark and 24.7kg grouper

Oil Spill Research Cruise fishes up rare shar…

When a crew of oil spill researchers embarked on a 15-day expedition into the norther...

09-28-2015

Southern GoM Longline Expedition

Southern GoM Longline Expedition

C-IMAGE researchers on the Weatherbird II get ready for setting the longline for fi...

09-27-2015

The Mud and Blood of 2014

The Mud and Blood of 2014

  The last field sampling expedition of C-IMAGE is now completed.  C-IMAGE PI Steven...

09-04-2014

Patrick Schwing's Audio Slideshow Profile

Patrick Schwing's Audio Slideshow Profile

Mind Open Media reporter David Levin sits down with C-IMAGE post-doc Patrick Schwing ...

08-06-2014

Kait Frasier, GoMRI Scholar

Kait Frasier, GoMRI Scholar

Grad Student Frasier is Learning What Dolphins Can Tell Us Kait Frasier listens to G...

07-31-2014

Patrick Schwing's blog on forams is on the Smithsonian Ocean Portal

Patrick Schwing's blog on forams is on the Sm…

From the GoMRI Site: The Smithsonian Ocean Portal posted a guest blog by Patrick Sc...

07-02-2014

Dr. Steve Murawski, NAS-OSB

Dr. Steve Murawski, NAS-OSB

Congratulations to Dr. Steve Murawski on his appointment to the National Academy of S...

06-30-2014

The "not-so-visible" impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on the Gulf of Mexico

The "not-so-visible" impacts of the…

Three years after the BP oil well disaster, scientists are struggling to understand t...

06-30-2014

Ecosystem Impacts Publications

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Linear decline in red snapper otolith Δ14C ex…

This article published in ICES Journal of Marine Science explains new methods used to...

05-14-2018

Sargassum coverage in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico during 2010 from Landsat and airborne observations: Implications for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill impact assessment

Sargassum coverage in the northeastern Gulf o…

How much Sargassum was in contact with oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill? Usi...

07-13-2016

Progression of a Gulf of Mexico food web supporting Atlantis ecosystem model development

Progression of a Gulf of Mexico food web supp…

This article develops a marine food web matrix for the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) based on ...

05-23-2016

Assessing the impacts of oil-associated marine snow formation and sedimentation during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill

Assessing the impacts of oil-associated marin…

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was the largest in US history, unprecedented for the ...

02-19-2016

Natural and unnatural oil slicks in the Gulf of Mexico

Natural and unnatural oil slicks in the Gulf …

When wind speeds are 2–10 m s−1, reflective contrasts in the ocean surface make oil s...

01-25-2016

Sun glint requirement for the remote detection of surface oil films

Sun glint requirement for the remote detectio…

Natural oil slicks in the western Gulf of Mexico are used to determine the sun glint ...

01-25-2016

Refinement of the critical angle calculation for the contrast reversal of oil slicks under sunglint

Refinement of the critical angle calculation …

It has long been observed that oil slicks under sunglint can reverse their optical co...

01-25-2016

Surface oil footprint and trajectory of the Ixtoc-I oil spill determined from Landsat/MSS and CZCS observations

Surface oil footprint and trajectory of the I…

Surface oil footprint and trajectory of the Ixtoc-I oil spill determined from Landsat...

01-25-2016

Oil slick morphology derived from AVIRIS measurements of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill: Implications for spatial resolution requirements of remote sensors

Oil slick morphology derived from AVIRIS meas…

Using fine spatial resolution (~ 7.6 m) hyperspectral AVIRIS data collected over the ...

01-25-2016

Podcasts from The Loop

The Loop is a series of podcasts which take an in depth look at C-IMAGE research. Partnering with Mind Open Media reporters Ari Daniel Shapiro and David Levin, our researchers share the importance of their studies and how they help our understanding of oil spills. David and Ari have produced eight podcasts and have more in the queue. The podcasts are linked below. Plug in and learn about our research!

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