GoMRI RFP-V: Wetland plant-microbial-benthic ecosystem responses & mitigation strategy (Lin)

The Long-Term Impact, Recovery and Resilience: Wetland plant-microbial-benthic ecosystem responses to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and mitigation strategies promoting sustainability by P.I. Qianxin Lin, Louisiana State University

Researcher Qianxin Lin

Researcher Qianxin Lin

The Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill exposed the nation’s largest and most productive wetland estuarine environment, the Mississippi River Delta coastal wetland ecosystem, to an unprecedented potential for environmental damage. The coastal marshes are of special concern because of the suite of environmentally and economically important services they support, all of which depend on a healthy, well-functioning plant-microbial-benthic complex that drives the food web base.

Over the last five years, the PI’s team has monitored DWH oil spill effects in Louisiana, making 12 field-based data collections that have quantified both the impacts on, and recovery of, a broad array of flora and fauna. Continuing this research is especially important along heavy oiled shorelines where the marsh plants that serve as foundation species suffered severe mortality. Results to date indicate that recovery is occurring but not yet complete.

Hence, a much longer-term study is needed to fully quantify the recovery of the plant-microbial- benthic complex and to better understand marsh resiliency. Furthermore, the PI’s team has initiated, and is currently monitoring a remediation/restoration effort that could accelerate the recovery rate of lost ecological services.

Therefore, the overall goals of this proposed research are to (1) document the long-term impacts of the DWH oil spill on the coastal marsh plant-microbial-benthic complex, (2) quantify rates of, and controls on, long-term recovery, and (3) evaluate the potential and effectiveness of a restoration and remediation strategy for promoting and accelerating long-term sustainability. This proposed research supports GoMRI theme 3: (1) knowledge of environmental effects of petroleum on wetlands, marshes and organisms and (2) the science of ecosystem recovery and means for accelerating recovery.

The proposed research will emphasize ecological assessments of plant structure and function, interactions within the plant-microbe-benthic complex, cultivation-based and modern molecular biological analysis of microbial communities, algal and invertebrate responses, biogeochemistry, digital aerial imagery for erosion assessment, and overall marsh integrity. This research will provide a better scientific understanding of the oil spill effects and long-term recovery of the plant-microbial-benthic ecosystem, as well as practical information concerning strategies for accelerating ecosystem recovery, and thus long-term sustainability, of oil impacted coastal wetlands.

The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.

 

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This project was funded by the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) in the RFP-V funding program.

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The Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative (GoMRI) is a 10-year independent research program established to study the effect, and the potential associated impact, of hydrocarbon releases on the environment and public health, as well as to develop improved spill mitigation, oil detection, characterization and remediation technologies. An independent and academic 20-member Research Board makes the funding and research direction decisions to ensure the intellectual quality, effectiveness and academic independence of the GoMRI research. All research data, findings and publications will be made publicly available. The program was established through a $500 million financial commitment from BP. For more information, visit http://gulfresearchinitiative.org/.