Although planktonic protozoans are likely to interact with dispersed crude oil after a spill, protozoan-mediated processes affecting crude oil pollution in the sea are still not well known. Here, we present the first evidence of ingestion and defecation of physically or chemically dispersed crude oil droplets (1–86 μm in diameter) by heterotrophic dinoflagellates, major components of marine planktonic food webs. At a crude oil concentration commonly found after an oil spill (1 μL L−1), the heterotrophic dinoflagellates Noctiluca scintillans and Gyrodinium spirale grew and ingested ~0.37 μg-oil μg-Cdino−1 d−1, which could represent ~17% to 100% of dispersed oil in surface waters when heterotrophic dinoflagellates are abundant or bloom. Egestion of faecal pellets containing crude oil by heterotrophic dinoflagellates could contribute to the sinking and flux of toxic petroleum hydrocarbons in coastal waters. Our study indicates that crude oil ingestion by heterotrophic dinoflagellates is a noteworthy route by which petroleum enters marine food webs and a previously overlooked biological process influencing the fate of crude oil in the sea after spills.
Background: Coastal sediments in the northern Gulf of Mexico have a high potential of being contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), due to extensive petroleum exploration and transportation activities. In this study we evaluated the spatial distribution and contamination sources of PAHs, as well as the bioavailable fraction in the bulk PAH pool, in surface marsh and shelf sediments (top 5 cm) of the northern Gulf of Mexico. Results: PAH concentrations in this region ranged from 100 to 856 ng g−1 , with the highest concentrations in Mississippi River mouth sediments followed by marsh sediments and then the lowest concentrations in shelf sediments. The PAH concentrations correlated positively with atomic C/N ratios of sedimentary organic matter (OM), suggesting that terrestrial OM preferentially sorbs PAHs relative to marine OM. PAHs with 2 rings were more abundant than those with 5–6 rings in continental shelf sediments, while the opposite was found in marsh sediments. This distribution pattern suggests different contamination sources between shelf and marsh sediments. Based on diagnostic ratios of PAH isomers and principal component analysis, shelf sediment PAHs were petrogenic and those from marsh sediments were pyrogenic. The proportions of bioavailable PAHs in total PAHs were low, ranging from 0.02% to 0.06%, with higher fractions found in marsh than shelf sediments. Conclusion: PAH distribution and composition differences between marsh and shelf sediments were influenced by grain size, contamination sources, and the types of organic matter associated with PAHs. Concentrations of PAHs in the study area were below effects low-range, suggesting a low risk to organisms and limited transfer of PAHs into food web. From the source analysis, PAHs in shelf sediments mainly originated from direct petroleum contamination, while those in marsh sediments were from combustion of fossil fuels.
The Gulf of Mexico is affected by hurricanes and suffers seasonal hypoxia. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill impacted every trophic level in the coastal region. Despite their importance in bioremediation and biogeochemical cycles, it is difficult to predict the responses of microbial communities to physical and anthropogenic disturbances. Here, we quantify sediment ammonia-oxidizing archaeal (AOA) community diversity, resistance and resilience, and important geochemical factors after major hurricanes and the oil spill. Dominant AOA archetypes correlated with different geochemical factors, suggesting that different AOA are constrained by distinct parameters. Diversity was lowest after the hurricanes, showing weak resistance to physical disturbances. However, diversity was highest during the oil spill and coincided with a community shift, suggesting a new alternative stable state sustained for at least 1 year. The new AOA community was not significantly different from that at the spill site 1 year after the spill. This sustained shift in nitrifier community structure may be a result of oil exposure.
Large drops rising or sinking in an immiscible liquid can develop thin trailing structures commonly referred to as “skirts”. The paper describes a mathematical model for the thickness of these skirts accounting for the viscous boundary layer that develops along the surface of the parent drop and of the skirt itself. Unlike earlier theories, the skirt thickness is found to decrease with distance from the drop rim, which illuminates the mechanism which terminates the skirt at a finite length. A scaling of the skirt length is suggested by an analysis of published data, which also leads to a scaling for the volume of liquid in the skirt. The theoretical predictions are compared with the few experimental results for which sufficiently detailed information is available.
Our current understanding of zooplankton interactions with surrounding fluid is limited, partially because traditional methods of particle image velocimetry (PIV) become impractical at scales less than a few millimeters and microscope-based systems restrict motions and can incur “wall effects”. We present a new approach to small-scale PIV imaging and our results demonstrate the ability to observe detailed kinematics simultaneously with fluid motion at small scales around free-swimming zooplankton. This can improve our understanding of animal–fluid interactions at small spatial scales and low Reynolds number.
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.
During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the unprecedented injection of millions of liters of chemical dispersant at the wellhead generated large quantities of submillimeter oil droplets that became entrained in a deep sea plume. The unexpected generation of these droplets has resulted in many studies in the last decade aiming to understand their transport and fate during and after the spill. Complicating matters, the plume coincided with a microbial bloom, and in addition to ocean dynamics these droplets were subjected to biological processes such as biodegradation and microbial aggregation. A lack of field observations and laboratory experiments using relevant conditions has left our understanding of these biotic processes and the role they played in the fate of the oil droplets poorly constrained. Furthermore, while biodegradation has been incorporated into drop transport models using available data, the effects of microbial aggregation involving extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) on their transport has seldom been incorporated into modeling efforts particularly due to our lack knowledge of these processes. We use a microfluidic platform to observe bacterial suspensions interacting with a single ~200 μm oil drop in conditions relevant to the drop rising through the microbial bloom. We observe the development of individual, invisible bacterial EPS threads extending from the drop surface which can capture additional passing bacteria and form bacteria-EPS aggregates. Using high speed imaging, we make high resolution flow measurements both with and without EPS threads present and analyze the momentum balance to elucidate the hydrodynamic impact of these filaments. Surprisingly, these thin individual EPS filaments alter significantly the pressure field around the drop and increase the drag, which would drastically reduce the drop's rising velocity in the water column. We demonstrate that this mechanism which plausibly occurred in the deep sea plume would have major impacts on both the drop and bacteria transport during and after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
The association between phytoplankton blooms and oil spills is still controversial despite numerous studies. Surprisingly, to date, there have been no studies on the effect of bacterial communities (BCs) exposed to crude oil on phytoplankton growth, even though crude oil changes BCs, which can then affect phytoplankton growth and species composition. Co-culture with crude oil-exposed BCs significantly stimulated the growth of Prorocentrum texanum in the laboratory. To gain more direct evidence, oil-degrading bacteria from oil-contaminated sediment collected after the Texas City “Y” oil spill were isolated, and changes in dinoflagellate growth when co-cultured with single bacterial isolates was investigated. The oil-degrading bacterial isolates significantly stimulated the growth of dinoflagellates (axenic and xenic cultures) through releasing growth-promoting substances. This study provides new evidence for the potential role of oil-degrading bacteria in the formation of phytoplankton blooms after an oil spill.
Bacteria are important examples of active or self-propelled colloids. Because of their directed motion, they accumulate near interfaces. There, they can become trapped and swim adjacent to the interface via hydrodynamic interactions, or they can adsorb directly and swim in an adhered state with complex trajectories that differ from those in bulk in both form and spatiotemporal implications. We have adopted the monotrichous bacterium Pseudomonas aeruginosa PA01 as a model species and have studied its motion at oil–aqueous interfaces. We have identified conditions in which bacteria swim persistently without restructuring the interface, allowing detailed and prolonged study of their motion. In addition to characterizing the ensemble behavior of the bacteria, we have observed a gallery of distinct trajectories of individual swimmers on and near fluid interfaces. We attribute these diverse swimming behaviors to differing trapped states for the bacteria in the fluid interface. These trajectory types include Brownian diffusive paths for passive adsorbed bacteria, curvilinear trajectories including curly paths with radii of curvature larger than the cell body length, and rapid pirouette motions with radii of curvature comparable to the cell body length. Finally, we see interfacial visitors that come and go from the interfacial plane. We characterize these individual swimmer motions. This work may impact nutrient cycles for bacteria on or near interfaces in nature. This work will also have implications in microrobotics, as active colloids in general and bacteria in particular are used to carry cargo in this burgeoning field. Finally, these results have implications in engineering of active surfaces that exploit interfacially trapped self-propelled colloids.
Inhalation of PM2.5, particles with an aerodynamic diameter <2.5 mm, from sea spray after crude oil spills could present serious health concerns. The addition of dispersants to effectively spread the crude oil throughout the water column has been practiced in recent years. Here, we investigated the possibility of an increase in the toxic content of fine PM after adding dispersant. A laboratory setup consisted of a vertical tank filled with seawater, 31.5 L airspace for aerosol sampling, and a bubble generating nozzle that aerosolized the oily droplets. Four different cases were studied: no slick, 0.5-mm-thick slick of pure crude oil (MC252 surrogate), dispersant (Corexit 9500A) mixed with crude oil at dispersant to oil ratio (DOR) 1:25, and DOR 1:100. The resulting airborne droplets were sampled for gravimetric and chemical analyses through development of a gas chromatography and mass spectrometry technique. Also, PM2.5 particles were size-fractioned into 13 size bins covering <60 nm to 12.1 mm using a low-pressure cascade impactor. The highest PM2.5 concentration (20.83 ± 5.21 mg/m3) was released from a slick of DOR 1:25, 8.83x greater than the case with pure crude oil. The average ratio of crude oil content from the slick of DOR 1:25 to the case with pure crude oil was 2.37 (1.83 vs 0.77 mg/m3) that decreased to 1.17 (0.90 vs 0.77 mg/m3) at DOR 1:100. For particles <220 nm, the resultant crude oil concentrations were 0.64 and 0.29 mg/m3 at DOR 1:25 and 1:100, both higher than 0.11 mg/m3 from the slick of pure crude oil.
In this work, a large-eddy simulation of bubble plumes in linearly stratified environments is presented. The gas bubbles are treated as Lagrangian particles. The intrusion and peeling are clearly manifested in the computed flow fields. The results of about 50 simulations with different parameters reveal the importance of bubble source area for plumes on the laboratory scale. A new type of bubble plume with rapid and distinct peelings is observed which is favored by large source areas. With a proper normalization, the present data points collapse onto a single straight line after applying a virtual-source correction which reflects the source-area effect. These results provide a plausible explanation for the scatter of the previous experimental and computational data in literature. A simple relation between the trap height and the peel height is observed and its mechanism is discussed