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PLoS One. 2012;7(7):e42548. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0042548. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Dispersed oil disrupts microbial pathways in pelagic food webs.

Author information

  • 1Department of Marine Sciences, University of South Alabama, Mobile, Alabama, United States of America. aortmann@disl.org

Abstract

Most of the studies of microbial processes in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill focused on the deep water plume, and not on the surface communities. The effects of the crude oil and the application of dispersants on the coastal microbial food web in the northern Gulf of Mexico have not been well characterized even though these regions support much of the fisheries production in the Gulf. A mesocosm experiment was carried out to determine how the microbial community off the coast of Alabama may have responded to the influx of surface oil and dispersants. While the addition of glucose or oil alone resulted in an increase in the biomass of ciliates, suggesting transfer of carbon to higher trophic levels was likely; a different effect was seen in the presence of dispersant. The addition of dispersant or dispersed oil resulted in an increase in the biomass of heterotrophic prokaryotes, but a significant inhibition of ciliates, suggesting a reduction in grazing and decrease in transfer of carbon to higher trophic levels. Similar patterns were observed in two separate experiments with different starting nutrient regimes and microbial communities suggesting that the addition of dispersant and dispersed oil to the northern Gulf of Mexico waters in 2010 may have reduced the flow of carbon to higher trophic levels, leading to a decrease in the production of zooplankton and fish on the Alabama shelf.

PMID:
22860136
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC3409195
Free PMC Article

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