Effects of oil from the 2010 macondo well blowout on marsh foraminifera of Mississippi and Louisiana, USA

Charlotte A. Brunner, Kevin M. Yeager, Rachel Hatch, Sondra Simpson, Joseph Keim, Kevin B. Briggs, Patrick Louchouarn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Foraminifera responded to both heavy and light oiling of marshes relative to unoiled control sites by changes to both standing stock and depth of habitation (DOH) in sediment following the 2010 Macondo well blowout. Push cores were taken from the middle marsh at sites classified as unoiled, lightly oiled, and heavily oiled based on concentrations of total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons ([TPAH]). Cores were sliced and stained with rose Bengal to detect live specimens of foraminifera. Short-term, sediment-mixing depths were determined using the penetration depths of excess 234Th, and sedimentary organic carbon and carbonate were measured to distinguish depositional environments. Marsh foraminifera reacted to the highest oil concentration (5,000-18,000 ng/g of TPAH) by reducing standing stock and shortening the DOH compared with the control sites. At a second, less heavily oiled site, foraminifera responded with a shallower DOH, but with a boom in standing stock. Deformed, dead foraminifera occurred in all heavily oiled cores - but not elsewhere. Live foraminifera responded with a population boom at lightly oiled sites with [TPAH] near 1,100 ng/g. Changes in standing stock and DOH with [TPAH] suggest disturbance to the marsh food web, apparently due to oil pollution, and support the use of foraminifera as sentinel species.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9115-9123
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Technology
Issue number16
StatePublished - Aug 20 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • Environmental Chemistry


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