Planktonic copepods play a key function in marine ecosystems, however, little is known about the effects of dispersants and chemically dispersed crude oil on these important planktonic organisms. We examined the potential for the copepods Acartia tonsa, Temora turbinata and Parvocalanus crassirostris to ingest crude oil droplets and determined the acute toxicity of the dispersant Corexit®9500A, and physically and chemically dispersed crude oil to these copepods. We detected ingestion of crude oil droplets by adults and nauplii of the three copepod species. Exposure to crude oil alone (1 µL L−1, 48 h) caused a reduction of egg production rates (EPRs) by 26–39 %, fecal pellet production rates (PPRs) by 11–27 %, and egg hatching (EH) by 1–38 % compared to the controls, depending on the species. Dispersant alone (0.05 µL L−1, 48 h) produced a reduction in EPR, PPR and EH by 20–35, 12–23 and 2–11 %, respectively. Dispersant-treated crude oil was the most toxic treatment, ~1.6 times more toxic than crude oil alone, causing a reduction in EPR, PPR and EH by 45–54, 28–41 and 11–31 %, respectively. Our results indicate that low concentrations of dispersant Corexit 9500A and chemically dispersed crude oil are toxic to marine zooplankton, and that the ingestion of crude oil droplets by copepods may be an important route by which crude oil pollution can enter marine food webs.
In 2010, nearly 7 million liters of chemical dispersants, mainly Corexit® 9500A, were released in the Gulf of Mexico to treat the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. However, little is still known about the effects of Corexit 9500A and dispersed crude oil on microzooplankton despite the important roles of these planktonic organisms in marine ecosystems. We conducted laboratory experiments to determine the acute toxicity of Corexit 9500A, and physically and chemically dispersed Louisiana light sweet crude oil to marine microzooplankton (oligotrich ciliates, tintinnids and heterotrophic dinoflagellates). Our results indicate that Corexit 9500A is highly toxic to microzooplankton, particularly to small ciliates, and that the combination of dispersant with crude oil significantly increases the toxicity of crude oil to microzooplankton. The negative impact of crude oil and dispersant on microzooplankton may disrupt the transfer of energy from lower to higher trophic levels and change the structure and dynamics of marine planktonic communities.
The fluorescence EEM technique, PARAFAC modeling, and hydrocarbon composition were used to characterize oil components and to examine the chemical evolution and degradation pathways of Macondo crude oil under controlled laboratory conditions. Three major fluorescent oil components were identified, with Ex/Em maxima at 226/328, 262/315, and 244/366 nm, respectively. An average degradation half-life of ∼20 d was determined for the oil components based on fluorescence EEM and hydrocarbon composition measurements, showing a dynamic chemical evolution and transformation of the oil during degradation. Dispersants appeared to change the chemical characteristics of oil, to shift the fluorescence EEM spectra, and to enhance the degradation of low-molecular-weight hydrocarbons. Photochemical degradation played a dominant role in the transformation of oil components, likely an effective degradation pathway of oil in the water column. Results from laboratory experiments should facilitate the interpretation of field-data and provide insights for understanding the fate and transport of oil components in the Gulf of Mexico.
A new method for prediction of droplet size distributions from subsea oil and gas releases is presented in this paper. The method is based on experimental data obtained from oil droplet breakup experiments conducted in a new test facility at SINTEF. The facility is described in a companion paper, while this paper deals with the theoretical basis for the model and the empirical correlations used to derive the model parameters from the available data from the test facility. A major issue dealt with in this paper is the basis for extrapolation of the data to full scale (blowout) conditions. Possible contribution from factors such as buoyancy flux and gas void fraction are discussed and evaluated based on results from the DeepSpill field experiment.
Bacterial community structures were evaluated in oil samples using culture-independent pyrosequencing, including oil mousses collected on sea surface and salt marshes during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, and oil deposited in sediments adjacent to the wellhead 1 year after the spill. Phylogenetic analysis suggested that Erythrobacter, Rhodovulum, Stappia, and Thalassospira ofAlphaproteobacteria were the prevailing groups in the oil mousses, which may relate to high temperatures and strong irradiance in surface Gulf waters. In the mousse collected from the leaves of Spartina alterniflora, Vibrio of Gammaproteobacteria represented 57% of the total operational taxonomic units, suggesting that this indigenous genus is particularly responsive to the oil contamination in salt marshes. The bacterial communities in oil-contaminated sediments were highly diversified. The relatively high abundance of theMethylococcus, Methylobacter, Actinobacteria, Firmicutes, and Chlorofexi bacteria resembles those found in certain cold-seep sediments with gas hydrates. Bacterial communities in the overlying water of the oil-contaminated sediment were dominated byRalstonia of Betaproteobacteria, which can degrade small aromatics, and Saccharophagus degradans of Gammaproteobacteria, a cellulose degrader, suggesting that overlying water was affected by the oil-contaminated sediments, possibly due to the dissolution of small aromatics and biosurfactants produced during biodegradation. Overall, these results provided key information needed to evaluate oil degradation in the region and develop future bioremediation strategies.
Size distribution of oil droplets formed in deep water oil and gas blowouts have strong impact on the fate of the oil in the environment. However, very limited data on droplet distributions from subsurface releases exist. The objective of this study has been to establish a laboratory facility to study droplet size versus release conditions (rates and nozzle diameters), oil properties and injection of dispersants (injection techniques and dispersant types). This paper presents this facility (6 m high, 3 m wide, containing 40 m3 of sea water) and introductory data. Injection of dispersant lowers the interfacial tension between oil and water and cause a significant reduction in droplet size. Most of this data show a good fit to existing Weber scaling equations. Some interesting deviations due to dispersant treatment are further analyzed and used to develop modified algorithms for predicting droplet sizes in a second paper (Johansen et al., 2013).
Gelatinous zooplankton play an important role in marine food webs both as major consumers of metazooplankton and as prey of apex predators (e.g., tuna, sunfish, sea turtles). However, little is known about the effects of crude oil spills on these important components of planktonic communities. We determined the effects of Louisiana light sweet crude oil exposure on survival and bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in adult stages of the scyphozoans Pelagia noctiluca and Aurelia aurita and the ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi, and on survival of ephyra larvae of A. aurita and cydippid larvae of M. leidyi, in the laboratory. AdultP. noctiluca showed 100% mortality at oil concentration ≥20 µL L−1 after 16 h. In contrast, low or non-lethal effects were observed on adult stages of A. aurita and M. leidyi exposed at oil concentration ≤25 µL L−1 after 6 days. Survival of ephyra and cydippid larva decreased with increasing crude oil concentration and exposition time. The median lethal concentration (LC50) for ephyra larvae ranged from 14.41 to 0.15 µL L−1 after 1 and 3 days, respectively. LC50 for cydippid larvae ranged from 14.52 to 8.94 µL L−1 after 3 and 6 days, respectively. We observed selective bioaccumulation of chrysene, phenanthrene and pyrene in A. aurita and chrysene, pyrene, benzo[a]pyrene, benzo[b]fluoranthene, benzo[k]fluoranthene, and benzo[a]anthracene in M. leidyi. Overall, our results indicate that (1) A. aurita and M. leidyi adults had a high tolerance to crude oil exposure compared to other zooplankton, whereas P. noctiluca was highly sensitive to crude oil, (2) larval stages of gelatinous zooplankton were more sensitive to crude oil than adult stages, and (3) some of the most toxic PAHs of crude oil can be bioaccumulated in gelatinous zooplankton and potentially be transferred up the food web and contaminate apex predators.
We conducted ship-, shore- and laboratory-based crude oil exposure experiments to investigate (1) the effects of crude oil (Louisiana light sweet oil) on survival and bioaccumulation of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) in mesozooplankton communities, (2) the lethal effects of dispersant (Corexit 9500A) and dispersant-treated oil on mesozooplankton, (3) the influence of UVB radiation/sunlight exposure on the toxicity of dispersed crude oil to mesozooplankton, and (4) the role of marine protozoans on the sublethal effects of crude oil and in the bioaccumulation of PAHs in the copepod Acartia tonsa. Mortality of mesozooplankton increased with increasing oil concentration following a sigmoid model with a median lethal concentration of 32.4 µl L−1 in 16 h. At the ratio of dispersant to oil commonly used in the treatment of oil spills (i.e. 1∶20), dispersant (0.25 µl L−1) and dispersant- treated oil were 2.3 and 3.4 times more toxic, respectively, than crude oil alone (5 µl L−1) to mesozooplankton. UVB radiation increased the lethal effects of dispersed crude oil in mesozooplankton communities by 35%. We observed selective bioaccumulation of five PAHs, fluoranthene, phenanthrene, pyrene, chrysene and benzo[b]fluoranthene in both mesozooplankton communities and in the copepod A. tonsa. The presence of the protozoan Oxyrrhis marina reduced sublethal effects of oil on A. tonsa and was related to lower accumulations of PAHs in tissues and fecal pellets, suggesting that protozoa may be important in mitigating the harmful effects of crude oil exposure in copepods and the transfer of PAHs to higher trophic levels. Overall, our results indicate that the negative impact of oil spills on mesozooplankton may be increased by the use of chemical dispersant and UV radiation, but attenuated by crude oil-microbial food webs interactions, and that both mesozooplankton and protozoans may play an important role in fate of PAHs in marine environments.
The oil released during the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) oil spill may have both short- and long-time impacts on the northern Gulf of Mexico ecosystems. An understanding of how the composition and concentration of the oil are altered by weathering, including chemical, physical and biological processes, is needed to evaluate the oil toxicity and impact on the ecosystem in the northern Gulf of Mexico. This study examined petroleum hydrocarbons in oil mousse collected from the sea surface and salt marshes, and in oil deposited in sediments adjacent to the wellhead after the DWH oil spill. Oil mousses were collected at two stations (OSS and CT, located 130 and 85 km away from the wellhead, respectively) in May 2010, and two sediment samples from stations SG and SC, within 6 km of the wellhead, in May 2011. We also collected oil mousse from salt marshes at Marsh Point (MP), Mississippi, 186 km away from the wellhead in July 2010. In these samples, n-alkanes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), alkylated PAHs, BTEX (collective name of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and p-, m-, and o-xylenes), C3-benzenes and trace metals were measured to examine how the oil was altered chemically. The chemical analysis indicates that the oil mousses underwent different degrees of weathering with the pattern of OSS < CT < MP. This pattern is consistent with the projected oil mousse movement from the accident site to salt marshes. Also, the contents of trace metals Al, V, Cr, Fe, Mn, Ni, Co, Cu, As and Pb in the oil mousse generally increased along the way to the salt marshes, indicating that these trace metals were perhaps aggregated into the oil mousse during the transport. Petroleum hydrocarbon data reveal that the oil deposited in sediments underwent only light to moderate degradation one year after the DWH oil spill, as supported by the presence of short-chained n-alkanes (C10–C 15), BTEX and C 3-benzenes. The weathering of oil in sediment may result from biological degradation and dissolution, evidenced by the preferential loss of mid-chained n-alkanes C16–C 27, lower ratios ofn-C 17/Pr and n-C 18/Ph , and preferential loss of PAHs relative to alkylated PAHs.
The interaction of oil and sediment in the environment determines, to a large extent, the trajectory and fate of oil. Using confocal microscope imaging techniques to obtain detailed 3D structures of oil–particle aggregates (OPAs) formed in turbulent flows, we elucidated a new mechanism of particle attachment, whereby the particles behave as projectiles penetrating the oil droplets to depths varying from ∼2 to 10 μm due to the hydrodynamic forces in the water. This mechanism results in a higher attachment of particles on oil in comparison with adsorption, as commonly assumed. The projectile hypothesis also explains the fragmentation of oil droplets with time, which occurred after long hours of mixing, leading to the formation of massive OPA clusters. Various lines of inquiry strongly suggested that protruding particles get torn from oil droplets and carry oil with them, causing the torn particles to be amphiphillic so that they contribute to the formation of massive OPAs of smaller oil droplets (<∼5–10 μm). Low particle concentration resulted in large, irregularly shaped oil blobs over time, the deformation of which without fragmentation could be due to partial coverage of the oil droplet surface by particles. The findings herein revealed a new pathway for the fate of oil in environments containing non-negligible sediment concentrations.
During the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a substantial fraction of the 600,000–900,000 tons of released petroleum liquid and natural gas became entrapped below the sea surface, but the quantity entrapped and the sequestration mechanisms have remained unclear. We modeled the buoyant jet of petroleum liquid droplets, gas bubbles, and entrained seawater, using 279 simulated chemical components, for a representative day (June 8, 2010) of the period after the sunken platform’s riser pipe was pared at the wellhead (June 4–July 15). The model predicts that 27% of the released mass of petroleum fluids dissolved into the sea during ascent from the pared wellhead (1,505 m depth) to the sea surface, thereby matching observed volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions to the atmosphere. Based on combined results from model simulation and water column measurements, 24% of released petroleum fluid mass became channeled into a stable deep-water intrusion at 900- to 1,300-m depth, as aqueously dissolved compounds (∼23%) and suspended petroleum liquid microdroplets (∼0.8%). Dispersant injection at the wellhead decreased the median initial diameters of simulated petroleum liquid droplets and gas bubbles by 3.2-fold and 3.4-fold, respectively, which increased dissolution of ascending petroleum fluids by 25%. Faster dissolution increased the simulated flows of water-soluble compounds into biologically sparse deep water by 55%, while decreasing the flows of several harmful compounds into biologically rich surface water. Dispersant injection also decreased the simulated emissions of VOCs to the atmosphere by 28%, including a 2,000-fold decrease in emissions of benzene, which lowered health risks for response workers.
Ongoing bioremediation research seeks to promote naturally occurring microbial polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) degradation during and after oil spill events. However, complex relationships among functionally different microbial groups, nutrients and PAHs remain unconstrained. We conducted a surface water survey and corresponding nutrient amendment bioassays following the Texas City “Y” oil spill in Galveston Bay, Texas. Resident microbial groups, defined as either heterotrophic or autotrophic were enumerated by flow cytometry. Heterotrophic abundance was increased by oil regardless of nutrient concentrations. Contrastingly, autotrophic abundance was inhibited by oil, but this reaction was less severe when nutrient concentrations were higher. Several PAH compounds were reduced in nutrient amended treatments relative to controls suggesting nutrient enhanced microbial PAH processing. These findings provide a first-look at nutrient limitation during microbial oil processing in Galveston Bay, an important step in understanding if nutrient additions would be a useful bioremediation strategy in this and other estuarine systems.