Shifts in Symbiotic Endophyte Communities of a Foundational Salt Marsh Grass following Oil Exposure from the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill.
ABSTRACT: Symbiotic associations can be disrupted by disturbance or by changing environmental conditions. Endophytes are fungal and bacterial symbionts of plants that can affect performance. As in more widely known symbioses, acute or chronic stressor exposure might trigger disassociation of endophytes from host plants. We tested this hypothesis by examining the effects of oil exposure following the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill on endophyte diversity and abundance in Spartina alterniflora - the foundational plant in northern Gulf coast salt marshes affected by the spill. We compared bacterial and fungal endophytes isolated from plants in reference areas to isolates from plants collected in areas with residual oil that has persisted for more than three years after the DWH spill. DNA sequence-based estimates showed that oil exposure shifted endophyte diversity and community structure. Plants from oiled areas exhibited near total loss of leaf fungal endophytes. Root fungal endophytes exhibited a more modest decline and little change was observed in endophytic bacterial diversity or abundance, though a shift towards hydrocarbon metabolizers was found in plants from oiled sites. These results show that plant-endophyte symbioses can be disrupted by stressor exposure, and indicate that symbiont community disassembly in marsh plants is an enduring outcome of the DWH spill.
Project description:Prior to Hurricane Isaac making landfall along the Gulf of Mexico coast in August 2012, local and state officials were concerned that the hurricane would mobilize submerged oiled-materials from the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill. In this study, we investigated materials washed ashore following the hurricane to determine if it affected the chemical composition or density of oil-containing sand patties regularly found on Gulf Coast beaches. While small changes in sand patty density were observed in samples collected before and after the hurricane, these variations appear to have been driven by differences in sampling location and not linked to the passing of Hurricane Isaac. Visual and chemical analysis of sand patties confirmed that the contents was consistent with oil from the Macondo well. Petroleum hydrocarbon signatures of samples collected before and after the hurricane showed no notable changes. In the days following Hurricane Isaac, dark-colored mats were also found on the beach in Fort Morgan, AL, and community reports speculated that these mats contained oil from the DWH spill. Chemical analysis of these mat samples identified n-alkanes but no other petroleum hydrocarbons. Bulk and ?13C organic carbon analyses indicated mat samples were comprised of marshland peat and not related to the DWH spill. This research indicates that Hurricane Isaac did not result in a notable change the composition of oil delivered to beaches at the investigated field sites. This study underscores the need for improved communications with interested stakeholders regarding how to differentiate oiled from non-oiled materials. This is especially important given the high cost of removing oiled debris and the increasing likelihood of false positives as oiled-materials washing ashore from a spill become less abundant over time.
Project description:Documentation of the near- and long-term effects of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill, one of the largest environmental disasters in US history, is still ongoing. We used a novel before-after-control-impact analysis to test the hypothesis that average body size of intertidal populations of the eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) inhabiting impacted areas in Louisiana decreased due to increased stress/mortality related to the oil spill. Time-averaged death assemblages of oysters were used to establish a pre-spill baseline of body-size structure for four impacted and four control locations along a 350 km stretch of Louisiana's coastline. Post-spill body sizes were then measured from live oysters at each site in order to evaluate the differences in body size between oiled (i.e. impact) and unoiled (i.e. control) locations before and after the spill. Our results indicate that average body size of oysters remained relatively unchanged after the oil spill. There were also no temporal patterns in temperature, salinity or disease prevalence that could have explained our results. Together, these findings suggest that oysters either recovered rapidly following the immediate impact of the DWH oil spill, or that its impact was not severe enough to influence short-term population dynamics of the oyster beds.
Project description:The experiment was designed to test the interactions of Spartina alterniflora, its microbiome, and the interaction of the plant-microbe relationship with oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWH). Total RNA was extracted from leaf and root microbiome of S. alterniflora in soils that were oiled in DWH oil spill with or without added oil, as well as those grown in unoiled soil with or without added oil. The work in its entirety characterizes the transport, fate and catabolic activities of bacterial communities in petroleum-polluted soils and within plant tissues. Overall design: Total RNA was extracted from leaf and root of Spartina alterniflora and converted immediately into cDNA, which was used for GeoChip 5.0S analysis. S. alterniflora was grown in one of the four conditions: DWH-impacted soil with added oil, DWH-impacted soil without added oil, previously unoiled soil with added oil, and previously unoiled soil without added oil (control). Triplicates of leaf and root samples were collected from each S. alterniflora, and thus a total of 24 samples were analyzed on GeoChip.
Project description:The Blue Crab, Callinectes sapidus, is a commercially, culturally, and ecologically significant species in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM), whose offshore stages were likely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWH). To test for DWH effects and to better understand the planktonic ecology of this species, we monitored Callinectes spp. megalopal settlement and condition at sites within and outside of the spill extent during and one year after the DWH. We tested for DWH effects by comparing 2010 settlement against baseline data available for two sites, and by testing for differences in settlement and condition inside and outside of the spill extent. We also developed time series models to better understand natural drivers of daily settlement variation (seasonal and lunar trends, hydrodynamics, wind) during 2010 and 2011. Overall, we found that neither megalopal settlement nor body weight were significantly reduced at oiled sites, but that high unexplained variation and low statistical power made detection of even large effects unlikely. Time series models revealed remarkably consistent and relatively strong seasonal and lunar trends within sites (explaining on average 28% and 9% of variation, respectively), while wind and hydrodynamic effects were weak (1-5% variation explained) and variable among sites. This study provides insights into DWH impacts as well as the natural drivers of Callinectes spp. megalopal settlement across the northern GOM.
Project description:More than 2,000 historic shipwrecks spanning 500 years of history, rest on the Gulf of Mexico seafloor. Shipwrecks serve as artificial reefs and hotspots of biodiversity by providing hard substrate, something rare in deep ocean regions. The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) spill discharged crude oil into the deep Gulf. Because of physical, biological, and chemical interactions, DWH oil was deposited on the seafloor, where historic shipwrecks are present. This study examined sediment microbiomes at seven historic shipwrecks. Steel-hulled, World War II-era shipwrecks and wooden-hulled, 19th century shipwrecks within and outside of the surface oiled area and subsurface plume were examined. Analysis of 16S rRNA sequence libraries, sediment radiocarbon age data, sedimentation rates, and hydrocarbons revealed that the German U-boat U-166 and the wooden-hulled sailing vessel known as the Mardi Gras Wreck, both in the Mississippi Canyon leasing area, were exposed to deposited oil during a rapid sedimentation event. Impacts to shipwreck microbiomes included a significant increase in Piscirickettsiaceae-related sequences in surface sediments, and reduced biodiversity relative to unimpacted sites. This study is the first to address the impact of the spill on shipwreck-associated microbiomes, and to explore how shipwrecks themselves influence microbiome diversity in the deep sea.
Project description:The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) blowout resulted in the deposition to the seafloor of up to 4.9% of 200 million gallons of oil released into the Gulf of Mexico. The petroleum hydrocarbon concentrations near the wellhead were high immediately after the spill, but returned to background levels a few years after the spill. Microbial communities in the seafloor are thought to be responsible for the degradation of hydrocarbons, however, our knowledge is primarily based upon gene diversity surveys and hydrocarbon concentration in field sediment samples. Here, we investigated the oil degradation potential and changes in bacterial community by amending seafloor sediment collected near the DWH site with crude oil and both oil and Corexit dispersant. Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons were rapidly degraded during the first 30 days of incubation, while alkanes were degraded more slowly. With the degradation of hydrocarbons, the relative abundances of Colwelliaceae, Alteromonadaceae, Methylococales, Alcanivorax, Bacteriovorax, and Phaeobacter increased remarkably. However, the abundances of oil-degrading bacteria changed with oil chemistry. Colwelliaceae decreased with increasing oil degradation, whereas Alcanivorax and Methylococcales increased considerably. We assembled seven genomes from the metagenome, including ones belonging to Colwellia, Alteromonadaceae, Rhodobacteraceae, the newly reported genus Woeseia, and candidate phylum NC10, all of which possess a repertoire of genes for hydrocarbon degradation. Moreover, genes related to hydrocarbon degradation were highly enriched in the oiled treatment, suggesting that the hydrocarbons were biodegraded, and that the indigenous microflora have a remarkable potential for the natural attenuation of spilled oil in the deep-sea surface sediment.
Project description:Managing oil spill residues washing onto sandy beaches is a common worldwide environmental problem. In this study, we have analyzed the first-arrival oil spill residues collected from two Gulf of Mexico (GOM) beach systems following two recent oil spills: the 2014 Galveston Bay (GB) oil spill, and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill. This is the first study to provide field observations and chemical characterization data for the 2014 GB oil spill. Here we compare the physical and chemical characteristics of GB oil spill samples with DWH oil spill samples and present their similarities and differences. Our field observations indicate that both oil spills had similar shoreline deposition patterns; however, their physical and chemical characteristics differed considerably. We highlight these differences, discuss their implications, and interpret GB data in light of lessons learned from previously published DWH oil spill studies. These analyses are further used to assess the long-term fate of GB oil spill residues and their potential environmental impacts.
Project description:The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill damaged thousands of km2 of intertidal marsh along shorelines that had been experiencing elevated rates of erosion for decades. Yet, the contribution of marsh oiling to landscape-scale degradation and subsequent land loss has been difficult to quantify. Here, we applied advanced remote sensing techniques to map changes in marsh land cover and open water before and after oiling. We segmented the marsh shorelines into non-oiled and oiled reaches and calculated the land loss rates for each 10% increase in oil cover (e.g. 0% to >70%), to determine if land loss rates for each reach oiling category were significantly different before and after oiling. Finally, we calculated background land-loss rates to separate natural and oil-related erosion and land loss. Oiling caused significant increases in land losses, particularly along reaches of heavy oiling (>20% oil cover). For reaches with ?20% oiling, land loss rates increased abruptly during the 2010-2013 period, and the loss rates during this period are significantly different from both the pre-oiling (p < 0.0001) and 2013-2016 post-oiling periods (p < 0.0001). The pre-oiling and 2013-2016 post-oiling periods exhibit no significant differences in land loss rates across oiled and non-oiled reaches (p = 0.557). We conclude that oiling increased land loss by more than 50%, but that land loss rates returned to background levels within 3-6 years after oiling, suggesting that oiling results in a large but temporary increase in land loss rates along the shoreline.
Project description:The recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico had significant effects on microbial communities in the Gulf, but impacts on nitrifying communities in adjacent salt marshes have not been investigated. We studied persistent effects of oil on ammonia-oxidizing archaeal (AOA) and bacterial (AOB) communities and their relationship to nitrification rates and soil properties in Louisiana marshes impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Soils were collected at oiled and unoiled sites from Louisiana coastal marshes in July 2012, 2 years after the spill, and analyzed for community differences based on ammonia monooxygenase genes (amoA). Terminal Restriction Fragment Polymorphism and DNA sequence analyses revealed significantly different AOA and AOB communities between the three regions, but few differences were found between oiled and unoiled sites. Community composition of nitrifiers was best explained by differences in soil moisture and nitrogen content. Despite the lack of significant oil effects on overall community composition, we identified differences in correlations of individual populations with potential nitrification rates between oiled and unoiled sites that help explain previously published correlation patterns. Our results suggest that exposure to oil, even 2 years post-spill, led to subtle changes in population dynamics. How, or if, these changes may impact ecosystem function in the marshes, however, remains uncertain.
Project description:In November 2007, the container ship Cosco Busan released 54,000 gallons of bunker fuel oil into San Francisco Bay. The accident oiled shoreline near spawning habitats for the largest population of Pacific herring on the west coast of the continental United States. We assessed the health and viability of herring embryos from oiled and unoiled locations that were either deposited by natural spawning or incubated in subtidal cages. Three months after the spill, caged embryos at oiled sites showed sublethal cardiac toxicity, as expected from exposure to oil-derived polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs). By contrast, embryos from the adjacent and shallower intertidal zone showed unexpectedly high rates of tissue necrosis and lethality unrelated to cardiotoxicity. No toxicity was observed in embryos from unoiled sites. Patterns of PACs at oiled sites were consistent with oil exposure against a background of urban sources, although tissue concentrations were lower than expected to cause lethality. Embryos sampled 2 y later from oiled sites showed modest sublethal cardiotoxicity but no elevated necrosis or mortality. Bunker oil contains the chemically uncharacterized remains of crude oil refinement, and one or more of these unidentified chemicals likely interacted with natural sunlight in the intertidal zone to kill herring embryos. This reveals an important discrepancy between the resolving power of current forensic analytical chemistry and biological responses of keystone ecological species in oiled habitats. Nevertheless, we successfully delineated the biological impacts of an oil spill in an urbanized coastal estuary with an overlapping backdrop of atmospheric, vessel, and land-based sources of PAC pollution.