Author(s): Hester MW, Mendelssohn IA
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Abstract Oil spills can have significant, short-term, negative impacts on coastal marshes, but the long-term effects and eventual recovery are not well documented, particularly in brackish marshes. The goals of this investigation were to: (1) document the long-term recovery of a Louisiana brackish marsh plant community impacted by a 1985 oil spill; (2) separate the effect of the oil spill on marsh deterioration from ambient rates of marsh deterioration; and (3) assess the relative importance of residual oil in the sediment and decreased marsh surface elevation in the failure of certain areas to recover. A total of 68 permanent plots previously established in 1985 were re-surveyed for plant and soil recovery in the fall of 1989. Although substantial (and near total) vegetative recovery was evident by significant increases in live and total vegetative cover, many of the plots that were initially heavily impacted by oil still displayed elevated levels of total saturated hydrocarbons in the soil. August 1990 measurements of plant photosynthetic response and edaphic variables revealed no significant differences between control plots and plots heavily impacted by oil that displayed vegetative regrowth. Rates of wetland land loss in the oiled marsh during an 8-year period that bracketed the time of the spill were within the historical range measured for this site and similar to the land loss rates of adjacent reference marshes. Results from a manipulative field transplant experiment indicated that the long-term failure of certain small areas to revegetate was primarily due to a decrease of marsh surface elevation (increased flooding stress), not a residual oil effect.
This article was published in Mar Environ Res
and referenced in Journal of Bioremediation & Biodegradation