Interannual variability of soft-bottom macrobenthic communities of the NW Gulf of Mexico in relationship to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill
A 3-year research program was undertaken to assess potential environmental disturbance caused by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill to the soft-bottom macrobenthic communities within Mexican waters of the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Community properties and temporal/spatial variability were analyzed besides toxicant parameters such as hydrocarbons and trace-metals. Overall infaunal density increased, taxa proportion changed, and small-size opportunistic organisms prevailed throughout the study. Annual abundance-biomass comparison (ABC) curves revealed progressive stress scenarios from moderate to severe. Concentrations of vanadium, nickel, cobalt, PAHs and AHs increased gradually over time. However, low correlations between benthic density and biogeochemical variables were determined. Initially, sedimentary properties were the main drivers of benthic community structure; subsequently, nickel, vanadium and PAHs, indicative of anthropogenic effect, were highlighted. Interannual variability in the macroinfauna was attributed to the synergy of several environmental factors. Undoubtedly, compounds derived from fossil fuels had a significant disturbance role, but their source remains uncertain.
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