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Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: Assessment of Potential Impacts on the Deep Soft-Bottom Benthos. Interim Data Summary Report

Author(s): Montagna, P.A.; J.G. Baguley; C. Cooksey; J.L. Hyland

NCCOS Center: CCEHBR (http://coastalscience.noaa.gov/about/centers/ccehbr)

Publication Type: NOAA Technical Memoranda

Journal Title: NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 166

Date of Publication: 2013

Reference Information: 32 pages

Abstract: A study was initiated in May 2011, under the direction of the Deepwater Horizon (DWH) Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) Deepwater Benthic Communities Technical Working Group (NRDA Deep Benthic TWG), to assess potential impacts of the DWH oil spill on sediments and resident benthic fauna in deepwater (> 200 meters) areas of the Gulf. Key objectives of the study were to complete the analysis of samples from 65 priority stations sampled in September-October 2010 on two DWH Response cruises (Gyre and Ocean Veritas) and from 38 long-term monitoring sites (including a subset of 35 of the original 65) sampled on a follow-up NRDA cruise in May-June 2011. The present progress report provides a brief summary of results from the initial processing of samples from fall 2010 priority sites (plus three additional historical sites). Data on key macrofaunal, meiofaunal, and abiotic environmental variables are presented for each of these samples and additional maps are included to depict spatial patterns in these variables throughout the study region. The near-field zone within about 3 km of the wellhead, where many of the stations showed evidence of impaired benthic condition (e.g. low taxa richness, high nematode/harpacticoid-copepod ratios), also is an area that contained some of the highest concentrations of total petroleum hydrocarbons (TPH), total polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (total PAHs), and barium in sediments (as possible indicators of DWH discharges). There were similar co-occurrences at other sites outside this zone, especially to the southwest of the wellhead out to about 15 km. However, there also were exceptions to this pattern, for example at several farther-field sites in deeper-slope and canyon locations where there was low benthic species richness but no evidence of exposure to DWH discharges. Such cases are consistent with historical patterns of benthic distributions in relation to natural controlling factors such as depth, position within canyons, and availability of organic matter derived from surface-water primary production.

Availability: Deepwater Horizon oil spill; Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment; Deepwater Horizon deepwater impacts; Gulf of Mexico deep-sea benthos; oil spill impacts

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